ScienceNews reports that daily exposure to airborne soot from car exhaust, smokestacks, and other sources of combustion is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.
Barry Dellinger of Louisiana State University says that the exposure could be the equivalent of smoking one cigarette per day – or as many as two packs a day!
Dellinger’s research team found that combustion produces free radicals that linger in the air much longer than previously thought. “To our enormous surprise, the free radicals survive hours, days, even indefinitely.”
Free radicals are believed to cause cancer and cardiovascular problems; they form after the exhaust form combustion cools down.
Ironically, even the most modern catalytic converters on automobiles may be ineffective at eliminating these free radicals – and the may even create the conditions for them to form. As catalytic converters break down smog-causing pollutants, they produce high temperatures that form free radicals. “You could be destroying some [pollutants] and creating some at the same time,” explains Dellinger.
How Can I Avoid Free Radical Air Pollution?
Dellinger’s study suggests that you probably cannot completely avoid inhaling free radicals; however, you can take steps to minimize your exposure. First of all, avoid high-traffic areas and industrial zones if possible. If you live in an urban area, try to exercise and perform other outdoor activities in the early morning hours when air pollution is at its lowest.
These tiny particles are so small that they can easily make their way into your home. Indoor sources of combustion, such as fireplaces, also produce free radicals. To create a clean air zone in your home, invest in a high-efficiency air purifier.