Monday, May 27, 2024

Toxic Car Interiors: Study Reveals Cancer-Causing Chemicals Lurking in Your Vehicle’s Air

A recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology exposes a hidden danger within your vehicle: cancer-causing flame retardants. These chemicals, present in 99% of tested cars, pose significant health risks, particularly in warmer conditions, where their concentration increases.

A comprehensive study conducted by researchers from Duke University discovered that flame retardants, including those linked to cancer, neurological, and reproductive harms, contaminate the air inside personal vehicles. Lead author Rebecca Hoehn emphasized the severity of the issue, stating that the average driver spends about an hour in their car daily, making this a considerable public health concern. This danger is compounded for individuals with longer commutes and child passengers, who inhale a larger volume of air per pound of body weight.

The study, which analyzed 101 cars (model year 2015 or newer) from various locations across the U.S., found that 99% of the vehicles contained tris (1-chloro-isopropyl) phosphate (TCIPP), a flame retardant under investigation as a potential carcinogen. Additionally, most cars tested positive for other organophosphate ester flame retardants, such as tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCIPP) and tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), both of which are listed as California Proposition 65 carcinogens.

The research also revealed that warmer weather leads to higher concentrations of flame retardants inside vehicles. During the study, it was observed that higher temperatures increased off-gassing from interior components like seat foam, elevating the concentration of these harmful chemicals. With vehicle interiors reaching temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the risk becomes even more significant.

Moreover, the study examined seat foam samples from 51 cars, finding a direct correlation between the presence of the suspected carcinogen TCIPP in the foam and its concentration in the cabin air. This confirms that seat foam is a significant source of flame retardants in the air inside vehicles.

The study points out that these flame retardants are added to meet the outdated U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 302, an open-flame flammability standard introduced in the 1970s. Experts urge NHTSA to update this standard, as done with California’s flammability standard for furniture and baby products, which has significantly reduced flame retardant levels in homes without compromising fire safety.

Epidemiological studies have linked exposure to flame retardants to decreased IQ in children and increased cancer risk. Lydia Jahl, a senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute and co-author of the study, recommends actions such as opening windows and parking in the shade to reduce exposure. However, the ultimate solution lies in reducing the use of flame retardants in vehicle manufacturing.

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