Is Your Commute Killing You?

7/7/2008 LOS ANGELES, Calif. "The air coming into your car is the worst air in the whole city," Scott Fruin, D.Env., an assistant professor of environmental health at University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, Calif., told Ivanhoe. Researchers used an electric car to track just how much pollution drivers are exposed to. Los Angeles commuters spend an average of 90 minutes sucking in diesel fuel fumes and ultra fine particles, or UFP, every day.

These particles -- smaller than one-one thousandth the size of a human hair -- can penetrate cell walls, enter the bloodstream and disperse throughout the body. They have been linked to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. "They get deepest into your lungs," Dr. Fruin explains. "They get into your bloodstream, and those are particularly high on freeways and busy roads."

The American Heart Association found high concentrations of diesel exhaust increases clot formation by almost 25 percent, which could lead to deadly cardiovascular problems. The study out of the University of Southern California found the biggest commute concerns are fumes from diesel trucks and following cars that hit the gas pedal too hard -- kicking up those deadly particles into the air and into your car. "If you don't smoke … it's the next worse environment," Dr. Fruin says.

So how can you make your commute safer? Researchers say drive with the windows up and set the air on re-circulate. But the best way to survive your commute is to cut your commute!

Studies have shown as little as two hours on the road a day can impact your heart health. Sounds like a lot, but that's just an hour commute each way. Of course, taking a train and exercising are also great ways to combat the effects of pollution on your health.

Scott Fruin
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 442-2870

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