For many, the commute to and from work is stressful. In addition, increasing air pollution makes the trip hazardous to your health

Traffic air pollution has been linked to a host of medical maladies, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues and lung cancer.

Fortunately, a group of Washington University engineers discovered a simple shift in driving habits can help to reduce those risks.

“We know that traffic generates a lot of pollution, and therefore it’s the time when you’re travelling in traffic that you can have a disproportionately high amount of your daily exposure to many harmful pollutants,” said Anna Leavey, a research scientist at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“What we wanted to see was: When and where are our highest exposures occurring, and how should one be driving to mitigate the risk?”

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“As aerosol scientists, we had access to state-of-the-art air monitoring equipment,” Reed said. “Once we began measuring the inside and outside of the car, and started getting numbers back, we were able to confirm our hypothesis that by controlling our car’s ventilation we could mitigate some pollutant risk.”

Traffic air pollution has been linked to cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues and lung cancer

Close the windows and use the AC

After crunching all the data, researchers found that using the air conditioner (AC) reduced the pollutants in the vehicle by 20-34 percent.

“We found a significant difference between running the fan versus running the AC. The AC is pulling outside air, running through the same filter with the same ventilation path as the fan. But there’s one difference: when the AC is operating: You have a cold evaporator that is cooling the air as it passes,” said one of the researchers Nathan Reed. “This cold surface attracts the pollutant particles, and they deposit there, as opposed to diffusing it into the air you’re breathing.”

Keeping the windows closed also offered a protective boost of anywhere form 8-44 percent, after all factors were taken into account.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis via

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While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.