Cars with petrol driven internal combustion engines produce toxic waste products that pollute the air, damaging our health, animal life and the environment.
Road transport is responsible for the emission of hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, metals and a variety of organic compounds into the environment. Sunlight acts on some of these to produce ground level ozone.
Chemicals from direct air pollution plus ozone are toxic and each has a specific effect upon humans and the environment. They cause respiratory diseases, irritation to the eyes, and exacerbate existing breathing problems, such as asthma in children and other medical conditions in the elderly. Carbon monoxide causes drowsiness and poor mental alertness. Asthma sufferers collectively lose millions of working days every year, costing employers and governments hundreds of million of dollars.
Air pollution from transport produces acid rain, which damages crops and trees, and erodes our old buildings and ancient works of art. Cars are a major source of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Cars make a lot of noise and expensive to maintain.
Lead from cars is present in the air people breathe, and while lead in petrol is being phased out in many Western countries, many developing countries in the world still use it. Lead lowers intelligence and causes behavioral problems.

The likely pathogens in car exhaust:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Suspended particles including PM-10, particles less than 10 microns in size
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Polycyclic hydrocarbons

Blood perfuses all of the body’s organs and can carry toxic substances as well as beneficial substances, such as oxygen, to them. Air pollution is the source of many materials that may enter the human bloodstream through the nose, mouth, skin, and the digestive tract. Chemicals known to be harmful, such as benzene, lead and other heavy metals, carbon monoxide, volatile nitrites, pesticides, and herbicides. These substances have been shown to produce harmful effects on the blood, bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes. Blood cells are constantly undergoing turnover, with new blood cells entering the circulation as mature cells are lost, making the blood system especially vulnerable to environmental poisoning. For example, lead interferes with normal red blood cell formation by inhibiting important enzymes. In addition, lead damages red blood cell membranes and interferes with cell metabolism in a way that shortens the survival of each individual cell. Each of these harmful effects can result in clinical anemia.
Benzene and other less known hydrocarbons are produced in petroleum refining, and are widely used as solvents and as materials in the production of various industrial products and pesticides. Benzene also is found in gasoline and in cigarette smoke. It has been shown that exposure to benzene is related to the development of leukemia and lymphoma. Benzene has a suppressive effect on bone marrow and it impairs blood cell maturation and amplification. Benzene exposure may result in a diminished number of blood cells or total bone marrow loss. A number of metabolites appear to be involved in this process, and there may be several targets of toxicity, including stem, progenitor, and some stromal cells.
Common air pollutants also have an affect on blood and thus on organs of the body. For example, carbon monoxide, arising from incomplete combustion of carbonaceous materials, binds to the hemoglobin over two hundred times more avidly than oxygen and distorts the release to the tissues of any remaining oxygen. Thus, CO poisoning is akin to suffocation. In addition, it has been observed that carbon monoxide can exacerbate cardiovascular disease in humans.
The toxic chemicals in environmental air pollution stimulate the immune system to activate leukocytes and macrophages that can produce tissue damage, especially to the cells that line human blood vessels. The combined effect of these events is to accelerate the changes that eventually lead to hypertension and ischemic heart disease.
The central nervous system (CNS) is the primary target for many serious air pollutants, such as lead, which is a major environmental hazard. Research provided evidence that levels of lead exposure associated with central nervous system effects, particularly as manifest in behavioral changes, is far lower than previously realized. Blood lead concentrations in children were not considered problematic until they exceeded 30 to 40 micrograms per deciliter (‘g/dL); however, epidemiological studies have demonstrated changes in cognitive function at blood concentrations as low as 10 to 15 ‘g/dL. While children are more susceptible to lead’s CNS effects, adults exhibit similar deficits in learning and memory as well. Advanced aging is also a period when enhanced vulnerability to the toxic effects of lead are predicted. In Germany, a large study documented an age-related decline in bone lead concentrations with advancing age. This effect was more pronounced in women than in men, reflecting post-menopausal processes in women which contribute to bone resorption and the release of lead back into the bloodstream. These results mean that lead exposure is actually increased during a period of already heightened susceptibility due to concurrent degeneration of other physiological functions, including both CNS and renal functions.
Although lead is the most studied of hundreds of known or suspected neurotoxic air pollutants, other heavy metals, pesticides, and organic solvents also cause neurobehavioral dysfunction. Expanded research in behavioral neurotoxicology is urgently needed. Changes in mood, cognition, and behavior are endpoints that need to be evaluated in addition to cancer rates or mortality data and may be more common. In various studies, increased levels of air pollutants are accompanied by increased psychiatric emergency calls and hospital admissions, behavior changes, and a lessened sense of well-being. Irritating odors and cigarette smoke have been found to increase aggressive behavior, and to decrease helping behavior and altruism, leading to a degradation of social interaction.
The effects of airborne pollutants on the immune system have been most widely studied in the respiratory tract. An airborne pollutant may enter the respiratory tract as a volatile gas (e.g., ozone, benzene), as liquid droplets (e.g., sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide), or as particulate matter (e.g., components of diesel exhaust, aromatic hydrocarbons). These pollutants interact with the immune system and may cause local and systemic responses ranging from overactive immune responses to immunosuppression. Most airborne pollutants are small molecular weight chemicals that must be coupled with other substances (e.g., proteins or conjugates) before they can be recognized by the immune system and cause an effect. Some disorders which may occur because of pollutants in the respiratory system are the following:

Immunosuppression can be demonstrated following exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g.,tetrachlordibenzo-p-dioxin).
Hypersensitivity reactions (e.g., occupational asthma) can occur following exposure to toluene diisocyanate and other volatile chemicals.

Drivers can help reduce motor vehicle emissions in the following ways:

  • Reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled by carpooling, using public transportation, and planning ahead to combine trips. A person using public transit for one year, instead of driving to work, can reduce their air pollution output by an average of 9.0 pounds of hydro carbons, 63 pounds of carbon monoxide, and 5 pounds of nitrogen oxides
  • Traveling at moderate, steady speeds (ideally between 35 and 45 miles per hour), and reducing idling time. High speeds result in greater emissions. Idling for more than half a minute burns more gas than it takes to restart the engine. Avoid drive-through windows.
  • Keeping vehicles in good running condition. Poorly maintained or malfunctioning vehicles can release as much as 10 times the emissions of a well-maintained one. Motorists should follow the manufacturer’s instructions on routine maintenance, such as oil and filter changes. Use an energy saving grade of motor oil.
  • Not topping off the tank when refueling. Make sure the gas cap fits properly to avoid spills.
  • Using clean fuels, when available. Clean fuels include reformulated gasoline, oxygenated gasoline, and alternative fuels. The EPA estimates that reformulated gasoline reduces ozone-forming emissions and toxic air pollutants by 15 to 17 percent. Reformulated gasoline will be required in areas where ozone levels exceed the federal health standard.

Sources: Nutramed, NSC

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