Depending on where you live, the Winter season is either right around the corner, or has already dumped 36 inches of fluffy white love in your lap (our Colorado town is of the latter variety).
This means that soon it will be necessary for many walkers and bikers to start using their cars again, and many will participate in the winter tradition of “warming up the car.” Although this excessive idling is considered a necessary and sometimes chivalrous act, it contributes to a dramatic increase in air pollution during the cold weather season.
In fact, “in winter conditions, emissions from an idling vehicle are more than double the normal level immediately after a cold start (Hamilton County).
Many people are unaware that heating up the car can have such harmful effects, and we are all confused by myths like “it takes more gas to turn the car on than to keep it running, or “turning the car on and off damages the engine.” So we sit and wait for the frost to dissolve on the windsheild and the seat warmers to be cranking at full capacity before we climb in.
Although typically ignored or played down by state and even national environmental regulators, more people need to be educated that the best way to warm up your car or truck is to drive it. And studies have shown that frequent restarting has little impact on engine parts such as battery and starter motor.
To make matters worse, research published in PLoS ONE Journal suggests that “pollution from traffic can ‘reprogram’ genes in the womb, increasing the risk for asthma.” Even if you don’t buy the studies findings that fetuses breathing in exhaust will have asthma, doctors are already sure that “pollution triggers symptoms in two thirds of people with asthma, and many say that a reduction in air pollution would make the single biggest difference to their quality of life.”
A good rule of thumb is: “Idling gets zero miles per gallon.”
In the United States and Canada, if every driver avoided idling for just 5 minutes a day, millions of tons of CO2 would be prevented from entering the atmosphere each year. That would represent a staggering contribution to positive climate change efforts (Gary Klinga).
TAKE ACTION by signing one of these Care2 petitions, and remember that a pair of gloves, a handy windshield scraper and a few minutes of cold are small sacrifices for a healthy planet.
Image Credit: blog.lehighvalleylive.com
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