By on November 14, 2007

truck_exhaust.jpgProvided you have "otherwise healthy habits," Scott Fruin reckons the ultra-fine particulates you inhale during your daily commute are the worst injury your body experiences on a daily basis. The assistant professor of environmental health at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) conducted a "Marco! Polo!" study of those pesky little toxic molecules that can penetrate your cell walls and disperse throughout your body. Ward's reports that the USC team jumped into a camera-equipped electric vehicle and simulated an LA commute, monitoring air quality. "In the 1.5 hours average drivers spend in their cars every day, they are exposed to 33%-45% of the harmful air pollution they breathe in," Fruin reveals. “Shortening your commute and spending less time in the car will significantly reduce your total body burden of harmful pollutants.” (Not to mention the stress of trying to get around slow-moving, taxpayer-funded EVs.) “The extent that (diesel trucks) dominated the highest concentration conditions on freeways was unexpected." But not unwelcome– at least from a legislative point-of-view. Fruin's anti-fine particle stance lines-up nicely with California's campaign to clean-up tailpipe pollutants from the diesel trucks plying its highways and byways, and the California Air Resource Board's insistence on the world's toughest diesel emissions regulations. 

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16 Comments on ““Driving to work is probably the most unhealthy part of your day”...”

  • avatar

    That reminds me, I need to change my cabin pollen filter

  • avatar

    How about, if you do primarily paperwork and networking, work from home! Daycare and global warming solved in 2 seconds.

  • avatar

    Yeah, not to mention the 40% of idiotic drivers who don’t have ANY lights on while the fog is so think you can’t see beyond 100 yards….
    And the amount of stress this generates, especially when those same drivers look at you blankly when you gesticulate to ask them to put the damn lights on.

    At least I feel better now that I ranted!

  • avatar

    I’ve had near continuous online discussions with others over several years about “diesel? or hybrid?”. Diesel is a losing proposition, as is. All the added cost of emissions equipment is going to make hybrid a far better proposition, including the fact that diesels with particulate traps and urea injection and this and that, will still be using a fuel which costs significantly more than does gasoline, and only “barely” meet the new tighter emissions – while the Prius and Civic IMA are far, far cleaner in real emissions – and essentially have zero particulates.

    I was in Scotland on “holiday” 2 1/2 years ago, and put on the “telly” for 1/2 hour total for my time in the UK, watched BBC news. Coincidentally, there was an article about diesel particulates. The scientist quoted stated that high speed diesels (read: automobile diesels) were FAR worse for humans, because the size of the particulates was smaller – and more easily taken up by the body through the lungs. But as this article mentions, diesel trucks also spew out a lot of harmful particulates, small enough to enter the human body.

  • avatar

    The rickshaw is seriously underutilized in this country.

  • avatar

    Maybe in LA…

    Did they consider at all that some people actually don’t live in a big city? I live in a city a little under three times larger (land area) than Los Angeles, but with only ~125,000 population. My commute is one of the most relaxing, calm, stress-free parts of my day.

  • avatar

    Mr Glenn126,

    re: particulate size. I was under the impression that the particle size was bigger on diesels than on petrol? Mind you, you’re still right that hybrids are better because when a diesel idles in heavy traffic it is still burning diesels and pumping out fumes. On a hybrid, it’ll be idling on the electric motor which doesn’t emit. I’m sure the petrol engine kicks in went it “senses” highway driving? The electric motor is designed for “stop – start” driving (i.e traffic).

  • avatar

    Heep I live in the same small town atmosphere and my 2 mile daily commute make me want to nuke this city. But that is mostly because its the worst planned city with worse drivers than in Atlanta and the traffic feels the same too. The air is not pleasant to breath either with the paper mill just at the edge of town, worst smell on earth next to a hog farm.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I bet they didn’t roll up the windows and put the air on recirc.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I’ve been to a paper mill, and I’d rather have the hog farm. At least it has a down to earth, homely, salt of the land essence to it.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Redbarchetta, are your sure you’re not still in Atlanta?

    It sounds like you may have moved to the southern part of the state.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure I’m in Valdosta, I was in Atlanta over the weekend rememebering how much I hated living there.

    Slow Atlanta-like traffic with a billion lights, SUV’s and idiots and me on my motorcycle trying to stay alive and not breath the SUV stink.

    Why do they put sensors at all the lights in the city but don’t program them to do a damn thing?

    At least we don’t have any water restrictions, so we can drink all this nasty polluted(paper mills are super polluters) water all we want.

  • avatar

    As a kid in the 1950s who grew up in Cleveland Ohio city limits, I’m thinking most of my unhealthy air and water was long ago.

  • avatar

    Haha, paper mill here too. I don’t even smell it, but then again, I’ve pretty much always lived here…

  • avatar

    Hi Katie,

    Petrol cars don’t pollute any particulates – that’s a job left for diesels. I have to admit I was shocked to learn that the size (engine displacement) and RPM of a diesel engine altered the actual SIZE of the dangerous particulates…

    Particulates seem to be “ashes” on a microscopic scale, I believe. Gasoline vaporizes and ignites, then the Hydrocarbons and Carbon Monoxide and Oxides of Nitrogen pollutants get burned up or altered and made into CO2 and H20 in the catalysts. Diesel spews out amounts of HC, CO and NOx, but also particulates – and catalysts cannot actually clean it all up. Hence, particulate traps (with periodic fuel enrichment regimes to burn the stuff out – all computerized engine control operated) and urea injection (literally kind of like peeing into the exhaust) are needed to even remotely make most car diesels legal for the ultra-strict US standards now in place for CARS.

    I still get to “enjoy” sharing the roads with the massive pollution of idjits with massive 3/4 ton Dodge pickups and Cummins diesels, with extremely smelly exhausts and exhaust pipes the size of stove pipes. The “new” low sulfur diesel fuel notwithstanding…

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