Research shockingly shows that air in most cars are laden with carcinogens

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Imagine driving to work, dropping your kids off at school, or simply running errands in your car. Now, imagine that with every breath you take inside your vehicle, you’re inhaling potential carcinogens. This startling reality has been revealed by recent research, shedding light on a hidden danger lurking in the air we breathe daily.

The study’s shocking findings

Researchers from Duke University, North Carolina-USA discovered that the air inside virtually all personal vehicles is contaminated with harmful flame retardants. These chemicals, often used in seat foam and other materials, are added to meet outdated federal flammability standards, despite having no proven fire-safety benefits. Lead author Rebecca Hoehn from Duke University emphasised the significance of these findings, especially given that the average driver spends about an hour in their car each day. In the case of Thailand especially in Bangkok, individuals can often be stuck in their cars for as long as two hours in peak-hour traffic.

The study analysed 101 cars across the United States, all from model years 2015 or newer. Alarmingly, 99% of these cars contained tris (1-chloro-isopropyl) phosphate (TCIPP), a flame retardant under investigation as a potential carcinogen. Additionally, other organophosphate ester flame retardants, including tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCIPP) and tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), both recognised as California Proposition 65 carcinogens, were detected. These chemicals have not only been linked to cancer but also to neurological and reproductive harm.

Research shockingly shows that air in most cars are laden with carcinogens | News by Thaiger
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Impact on human health

The implications of these findings are profound, especially for vulnerable populations like children and individuals with longer commutes. Studies have shown that exposure to flame retardants can lead to decreased IQ in children, with some estimates suggesting a fourfold increase in cancer risk for those with high levels of these chemicals in their blood.

Moreover, the study highlighted a concerning trend regarding temperature and chemical concentrations. Warmer weather was associated with higher levels of flame retardants in the air, as the off-gassing from interior components like seat foam increases at higher temperatures. Considering that vehicle interiors can reach temperatures as high as 150 degrees Fahrenheit, this poses a serious risk, particularly in hotter climates.

Addressing the issue and advocating for change

The study’s authors, along with organizations like the International Association of Fire Fighters, are urging regulatory bodies like the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to update flammability standards. They argue that current standards not only fail to provide significant fire safety benefits but also contribute to higher cancer rates among firefighters due to increased toxicity during fires.

A notable example is California’s updated flammability standard for furniture and baby products, which has led to lower levels of flame retardants in homes while maintaining or improving fire safety. This success underscores the possibility of achieving safer standards without compromising fire protection.

Research shockingly shows that air in most cars are laden with carcinogens | News by Thaiger
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Understanding flame retardants and human exposure

Flame retardants, including organophosphate esters (OPEs) like TCIPP and TDCIPP, are widely used in various consumer products. These chemicals, once released into the air, can be inhaled or absorbed through contact, contributing to human exposure. Studies have linked exposure to flame retardants with a range of health issues, from developmental neurotoxicity to reproductive harm and cancer.

Despite restrictions on certain flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), their replacements, such as OPEs, continue to pose health risks. The need for comprehensive research and updated regulations is evident, especially in environments like vehicles where people spend significant amounts of time.

A call for action

The findings of this research serve as a wake-up call, highlighting the urgent need to address the presence of carcinogenic chemicals in our everyday environments, particularly in vehicles where exposure can be significant. From updating flammability standards to advocating for safer alternatives, concerted efforts are necessary to protect public health and reduce the risks associated with flame retardant exposure.

As consumers, being informed about these risks empowers us to make choices that prioritise our well-being. Whether it’s advocating for regulatory changes or taking simple steps like parking in the shade and ventilating our vehicles, every action counts in mitigating the impact of harmful chemicals in our cars.

Research shockingly shows that air in most cars are laden with carcinogens | News by Thaiger
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Readers can access the study published in the peer-reviewed journal: Environmental Science & Technology.

Those who spend a lot of time in their cars that have a lot of these carcinogens are strongly advised to go for annual cancer screenings. To find an appointment, book an appointment and contact MyMediTravel to start preventing any symptoms of cancer today.

AutomotiveHealthThailand News

Dr. Nikhil Prasad

Dr. Nikhil Prasad is an independent researcher, medical, pharma and health PR consultant, herbalists and phytochemical specialists and a medical and health writer for numerous international publications and sites including his own sites such as Thailand Medical News. He is based either at Sydney, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai or Bangkok.

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