How's the Air Quality in Cars and Planes?

Poor air quality may lead to health issues for people with heart problems.

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After finding that air in airplane cabins sometimes fails to meet federal health standards, the National Research Council (NRC) has urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to evaluate its regulations governing indoor air quality. The NRC found that ozone concentrations inside commercial aircraft sometimes exceed FAA and Environmental Protection Agency standards; these concentrations may cause respiratory problems. The NRC was also concerned about health risks associated with pressurized air, which can cause problems for people with pulmonary or cardiac conditions.

Driving may not be much better. In a study sponsored by the Australian government, researchers found that high levels of toxins remain in new cars for up to six months after they leave the showroom, Environmental News Network (ENN) reports. The two-year study found that a number of people became ill after driving new cars, with symptoms including discomfort; drowsiness; fatigue; confusion; eye, nose, and throat irritation; and headache. The predominance of plastics in the passenger compartment is thought to be responsible.

“We have called for the phaseout of polyvinyl chloride in vehicles for many reasons; one of the reasons is the outgassing of plastics,” Jeff Gearhart of the Clean Car Campaign told ENN. “What you’re seeing and what they’re testing is outgassing from the vinyl, also sealers and adhesives, sound-deadening materials, and trim components.” Adds Petar Johnson, president of the Australian Environmental Labeling Association, “The subject of VOC and human toxicity exposure while driving must be high on the priority list for car redesign.”