New research suggests motorists (and passengers) are being exposed to harmful toxins due to the air-conditioning units in their cars having ineffective or flawed filtering systems:
With the UK facing another heatwave before the summer is over, many drivers will be seeking to take full advantage of their vehicle’s air conditioning system. However, many are unlikely to know whether they are operating it effectively or the risks of being exposed to harmful toxins.
Spanish car-maker ‘Seat’ has recently unveiled some of the common mistakes drivers appear to make when trying to cool their vehicle, and issued some useful tips to assist motorists. In doing so, they explain that based on their own research, motorists who do not sufficiently cool down their vehicle are likely to have impaired reaction times.
Therefore, it suggests motorists should:
- Open the doors and windows of their vehicles for a few minutes rather than switching the air-conditioning to full blast the moment they enter the vehicle. It prevents the hot air trapped in the vehicle simply being recirculated;
- Avoid pointing the air vents directly towards them to allow the cool air to be evenly distributed around the car. It is perhaps even more important to do so when carrying passengers.
- Use the ‘auto’ function if the vehicle is fitted with climate control since it regulates fan speed and whether the air is recirculated in the cabin or drawn from outside.
- Activate the air-conditioning system regularly, even through the winter. Further, the air-conditioning system should be systematically tested and maintained, replacing certain components such as the filters every 1 to 2 years.
- If there is a strange odour disseminating from the system then it is important to have it promptly checked, cleaned and fixed by a specialist
The air-conditioning system in vehicles generally functions by mixing fresh air from outside with a refrigerant causing the mixture to turns into liquid as it is cooled. It is then converted into vapour as it travels through evaporation coils and blown into the cabin as cool air. However, motorists may not be aware that it is the evaporator in the system that provides desirable conditions for bacteria, mould and fungi to build up and thrive. Although the car filter seeks to prevent many pollutants entering the passenger compartment, recent studies show they are not effective in many of the commonly used vehicle.
Automotive experts have now called for the introduction of regulations to set acceptable standards for car air conditioning and filtration systems following the recent tests carried out on a range of vehicles, which revealed many of the nation’s popular and most used vehicles are letting in dangerous amounts of pollution. Tests were carried out on eleven different types of cars and a huge differences were seen across their respective air purification abilities, potentially exposing unknowing passengers to heavily polluted air particles.
The dangerous pollutants come from the exhausts of other vehicles on the road which according to recent studies can contain an average of 57,000 toxic particles in every cubic centre metre of road side air meaning a driver could be inhaling 28 million particles in every breath. This is a health risk as the polluted air particles enter the bloodstream via the lungs, thus the impact is not limited to sufferers of Asthma. It has been suggested these toxins have links with a wide range of infections and other health conditions.
It is reported that the three poorest performing cars were the Toyota C-HR, VW Polo and Ford Fiesta which removed 1%, 35% and 40% of air pollutants respectively. These figures are made more worrying when you consider the popularity of these cars with the Ford Fiesta being the UK’s most sold car in 2017, closely followed by the Polo in 7th. In contrast the best performing car was the Mercedes E-Class which purified 90% of incoming air pollutants, exhibiting the existence of the technology which other cars lack regarding air purification.
Nick Molden CEO of Emission Analytics, the laboratory at which these tests were carried out, theorised one of the key contributors to this issue stems from the lack of government legislation in regard to car filtration systems.
In light of the lack of a recognised minimum standard, prospective buyers do not have adequate information and date, to decide whether the vehicle they are buying will provide them with sufficient protection. Such decisions can be somewhat critical since pollution is particularly hazardous for asthmatics, and is said to also contribute to heart disease, stroke and some cancer.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) confirmed the lack of regulation allows manufacturing companies to implement any specification of air filter they chose but have confirmed the industry is working alongside policy makers to decide if new legislation is required. In light of these revelations, and the governments proposed plans to encourage low emission vehicles, it will be interesting to see whether or not such legislative provisions will be implemented.