Smoking a cigarette in a car makes the air inside 10 to 30 times more toxic than outdoor air on one of Southern California's most polluted days, according to a recent test by a Stanford University environmental health scientist, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
In a demonstration designed to promote a new state law that bans smoking in cars carrying minors, Stanford scientist Neil Klepeis attached sensors to the dashboard and in a child safety seat of a 1999 Toyota Corolla.
A volunteer smoker then lit up in the driver's seat. Within 20 seconds, monitors showed particle levels in the front seat hitting the level of "hazardous," which is the amount that would prompt the Environmental Protection Agency to recommend people stay indoors and avoid rigorous activity, had that been measured for outside air. In less than a minute the computer registered 30 times that hazardous level of particles.
Even opening the window caused the particles to linger for some time. With the window open about 8 inches, the air still reached hazardous levels within a minute.
California's new law carries a fine of up to $100 for motorists caught smoking with a minor in the car, although police do not have the right to pull over someone for that infraction alone.
Doctors know that children are the most susceptible to damage from the effects of air pollution, given their small size, high rates of respiration and underdeveloped immune and defense systems. Given that asthma and respiratory illness continue to climb across the nation, particularly for children, California's law sets an example, so hopefully everyone can breathe a little easier.
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