Harmful Pollutants From Smoking In Cars Exceeds WHO's Guidelines
October 16, 2012

Harmful Pollutants From Smoking In Cars Exceeds WHO Guidelines

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A study has found that smoking in cars pumps out harmful pollutants that exceed the World Health Organization's (WHO) indoor air quality standards.

Authors, from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, reported in the journal Tobacco Control that they found smoking in cars even with the windows open and the air conditioner switched on can affect the health of any child passengers.

The researchers took measurements of seventeen drivers, 14 of whom were smokers, over a total of 104 car rides that lasted from five to 70 minutes. Five of the smokers said they smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day, while seven smoked between 10 and 19 a day and the rest smoked fewer than 10.

The measurements were made using an aerosol monitor that is frequently deployed to assess second hand smoke exposure. Levels of fine particulate matter were measured every minute in the rear passenger area during typical car rides over a three day period. Particulate matter levels were available for 83 journeys, 34 of which were smoke free.

The travelers tended to open car windows to provide some ventilation when smoking, but levels of particulate matter still exceeded the maximum safe limit recommended by the World Health Organization of 25 µg/m3.

Levels during their journeys where they smoked were around 85 µg/m3, which was more than three times higher than the WHO's recommendation, and 10 times higher than the non-smoking car rides.

Particulate matter levels were strongly linked to the number of cigarettes smoked, and they peaked at an average of 385 µg/m3, but on one occasion reached as high as 880 µg/m3.

The authors pointed out that second hand smoke is linked to several children's health problems, such as sudden infant death, middle ear disease, wheeze and asthma.

"Children are likely to be at greater risk from [second hand smoke] exposure due to their faster breathing rates, less developed immune system and their inability to move away from the source in many home and car settings," the researchers said in a press release.

A recent report by the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group called for a ban on smoking in cars on, as an attempt to reduce the overall prevalence of smoking and the harms associated with exposure to second hand smoke.

The authors said that several other countries, including Canada, the United States, Australia, Cyprus and South Africa have already introduced state or national legislation to ban smoking in cars.