Long car trips could expose drivers to carcinogens, study finds

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STATEN ISLAND, NY – New research indicating that long car trips could expose drivers to dangerous carcinogens is particularly troubling to residents of Staten Island, who endure one of the longest journeys on average in the county.

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California Riverside (UCR) says that drivers who spend more than 20 minutes at a time in their cars are at increased risk of inhaling two dangerous carcinogens – formaldehyde and benzene.

“Our study raises concerns about the potential risk associated with inhaling benzene and formaldehyde for people who spend a lot of time in their vehicles, an issue that is particularly relevant for congested areas where people have longer trips. long, ”according to the study’s lead author, Aalekhya Reddam, a graduate student at UCR.

Formaldehyde and benzene, two toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and developmental disabilities, are often embedded in carpets, paints and fuels used in most vehicles.

Researchers have found that the vast majority of drivers in the busiest areas of California, like Los Angeles and San Diego, have about a 10% chance of inhaling these dangerous chemicals during their daily commute.

Staten Island, the most car-dependent borough in New York City, has long been plagued by one of the nation’s longest commutes, with residents spending an average of 42.7 minutes to get to work, and more one-third of Staten Island residents spend more than an hour each way, according to US census data.

To allay potential fears that may arise as a result of the study, David Volz, professor of environmental toxicology and co-author of the study, said USA Today that the results “do not in any way suggest or conclude that if you spend 20 minutes in your car you are going to get cancer.”

Instead, the potential risk of getting sick from these toxic chemicals depends on the circumstances of your trip and the construction of your vehicle.

“Of course, there is a range of exposure that depends on how long you are in the car and how much compound your car emits,” Reddam said.

As a result, those who spend a lot of time on the road, like truckers and taxi drivers, could be at increased risk, prompting researchers to request additional studies to assess potential long-term effects.

“There is a need for more information on the potential association between travel time in vehicles and exposure to these two chemicals,” according to the study.

The researchers are also calling on automakers to identify and use alternative chemicals during the manufacturing process that do not pose the same threats to public health.

To minimize your risk of exposure, Reddam recommended driving with the windows down whenever possible.

“At least with a little air, you were diluting the concentration of these chemicals inside your car,” Reddam said.

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