Car Emissions and Your Health: What You Need to Know

Although smog has been greatly controlled because of tough regulations and improved emissions in cars, automobiles still release some particles into the air that create health hazards. The current government has vowed to force manufacturers to make vehicles 40 percent more efficient. And some cars on the roads are still not meeting minimum standards, and fail at the time of their smog check. Until all cars on the road are green and have zero emissions, the health hazards need to be kept to a minimum by reducing smog everywhere.

Car emissions are partly responsible for the acid rain that falls and creates acidic waters in our lakes, ponds, and streams. Aquatic life cannot thrive or be sustained in highly acidic environments, so fewer fish survive, which in turn results in less prey and food for other animals. Food production and harvests are impeded by acid rain, thus resulting in crop damage and decreased food supplies.

Children whose mothers experienced high levels of air pollution may have lower IQs, and women living in heavily polluted areas of car exhaust are more likely to give birth prematurely or have babies with low birth weight and smaller head sizes.

Car emissions are responsible for an increase in asthma attacks in children, so much so that some children are advised to avoid going outside on smoggy days. The closer a child lives to a highway, the more likely they are to have asthma, which is a serious personal health problem. In one study, the risk for asthma increased 89 percent for every ¾ of a mile closer to the highway the children lived. Doctors have concluded that reducing car emissions will help ensure the respiratory health of California children.

We also know that one out of every 50 heart attacks in London is the direct result of air pollution. (Car emissions are the main cause of air pollution.) Leukemia is linked to benzene, which is emitted by cars. Many of the chemicals that are emitted in the exhaust, such as hydrocarbons, are thought to promote cancer. Skin cancer will continue to increase worldwide because the CFCs from cars have made holes in the ozone, which increases skin cancer risk because of excessive UV radiation on earth.

Car owners can do their part by getting smog checks, getting regular tune-ups and oil changes, and driving with properly inflated tires at all times. Driving below 55 mph helps improve car mileage as well. If everyone does something small to curb smog, there will be large-scale dividends over time.

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