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Beware of health risks when stuck for long hours

Beware of health risks when stuck for long hours

Seth Onyango @SethManex

While the economy is the biggest casualty of traffic gridlocks, long waits in traffic can be damaging to your health.

There is general consensus that traffic is harmful to the environment and fuel consumption, but less attention is given to its effect on your body.

Multiples studies indicate that sitting for long periods in traffic exposes commuters to toxic fumes and triggers deadly stress levels.

Traffic congestion has been linked to the unruly behaviour of motorists — highlighting increased behavioural changes as a result of anxiety.

Research shows that drivers and passengers tend to be more agitated, which in the long run affects their mental stability.

Connections have also been found between Alzheimer’s disease and a lack of physical activity, especially during traffic congestion. The disease has also been linked to a lack of mental stimulation.

Similarly, getting stuck in a bumper-to-bumper gridlock multiplies the toxicity of air pollution, especially when windows are rolled down or fans are circulating outdoor air inside the vehicle.

University of Surrey, in a widely publicised journal, linked traffic jam to an array of health complications ranging from respiratory infections and mental disorder.

It found that having windows closed but keeping the fan on puts one at risk, considering the pollution in the outside air being circulated in the vehicle.

According to the study, closing windows and putting fans off lowers exposure to in-car pollutants by 76 per cent. The findings also showed that when stopped at a red light, cars release emissions as they go through driving cycles that vary from accelerating and decelerating to staying idle.

In these cases, the emissions take longer to disperse and therefore accumulate in the air near traffic lights.

Pollution that gathers inside cars in traffic jams and at the lights is far higher than that found in moving cars.

According to Anna Kauppi, a chemist and infections disease researcher, exposure to poisonous gases emitted through vehicles’ exhaust can exacerbate allergies.

“Traffic fumes contain hundreds of pollutants that in combination are detrimental to human health. Air pollution from traffic has been linked to lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and allergies,” she said.

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