August 31, 2009
Commuter Tunnels Heavily Polluted

Tip of the day: Roll up your windows before passing thru car tunnels.

A toxic cocktail of ultrafine particles is lurking inside road tunnels in concentration levels so high they have the potential to harm drivers and passengers, a new study has found.

The study, which has been published in Atmospheric Environment, measured ultrafine particle concentration levels outside a vehicle travelling through the M5 East tunnel in Sydney.

A tunnel in Sydney Australia sometimes has particulate pollution 1000 times higher than in the surrounding environment. Mind you, cities are already more polluted than suburbs or countryside.

Professor Morawska said the study involved more than 300 trips through the four kilometres of the M5 East tunnel, with journeys lasting up to 26 minutes, depending on traffic congestion.

"What this study aimed to do was identify the concentration levels found in the tunnel. It generated a huge body of data on the concentrations and the results show that, at times, the levels are up to 1000 times higher than in urban ambient conditions," she said.

Motorcycling thru tunnels doesn't give you much opportunity to avoid exposure. At least with cars you can roll up your windows.

She said drivers and occupants of new vehicles which had their windows closed were safer than people travelling in older vehicles.

"People who are driving older vehicles which are inferior in terms of tightness and also those riding motorcycles or driving convertibles, these people are exposed to incredibly high concentrations," she said.

If you have to do this regularly and want to cruise through polluted tunnels on a motorcycle you could use an N95 respirator.

A engineer friend tells me that HEPA filters aren't practical in cars due to weight and energy requirements. But you could outfit your car with a HEPA filter if you didn't mind teh costs. I've long wondered just how much pollutants make it inside commuter cars in dense traffic. Anyone have insights on this?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 August 31 05:36 PM  Pollution Air


Comments
Lono said at September 1, 2009 8:28 AM:

While I don't have much insight into this I know that our current system is completely wrong headed.

Most people I know rarely turn their car to internal air except in the most offensive of conditions.

I regularly manage my outside air exposure based on things such as traffic congestion, tunnel driving, and wildfire conditions.

People seem to ignore this danger entirely and have a massive tolerance for very polluted car exhaust exposure - sometimes I feel like I have some kind of super sense compared to these mouth breaters since I am very attune to changes in air quality coming into a car.

As usual the rich will have access to better protection while the middle class and poor will be encouraged to breathe in deep and enjoy!

Some things they never change...

Squid said at September 1, 2009 2:35 PM:

As usual the rich will have access to better protection while the middle class and poor will be encouraged to breathe in deep and enjoy!

World Ends! Women and Children Hardest Hit!

Arnold said at September 1, 2009 2:44 PM:

Most people I know rarely turn their car to internal air except in the most offensive of conditions.

Maybe they don't use inside air when you're in the car because you stink.

Jason said at September 1, 2009 3:01 PM:

Correction, Arnold: "Maybe they don't use inside air when you're in the car because you stink, you filthy hippie."

Sterling said at September 1, 2009 5:42 PM:

I figured this out when I was five years old, driving through the Holland Tunnel. Duh!

Engineer-Poet said at September 3, 2009 9:00 AM:

You were driving through the Holland Tunnel at age 5?!  How did you get a license?  Forget that, how did you see over the steering wheel?!

wes george said at September 8, 2009 3:35 AM:

There is no reason to live in cities with more than a million people. The Internet has liberated the intelligentsia so that they can live anywhere. The trade classes can simply follow the work.

The paradox is that as Green living becomes the moral fashion of the age, people aren't flocking to the underpopulated hinterland to live in permacultured nature. No, they're whinging about pollution as they sit in traffic jams, while demanding the government do something about it!

Failure of the imagination combined with hypocrisy.

Or then again, maybe it is better to keep all the cognitively challenged coralled in their Manhattan, London and Sydney ghettoes?

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