You might turn the car on and immediately turn on the air conditioner while your other friend or loved one goes into the supermarket for a bit. While this might seem like a harmless thing to do, it’s actually extremely dangerous.
When we close our windows and park our cars outside, they accumulate a chemical known as benzene. If you leave your car in the shade it might accumulate somewhere between 400-800 mg of benzene, while if it is left out in the sun it can accumulate near 2000-4000 mg! That is almost 40 times the permitted level. Exposure to benzene can have several different effects on your health. It all depends on how much of it that you are exposed to. Short-term exposure can lead to irritation of the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin. You might even experience a little bit of dizziness, drowsiness, and unconscious at higher levels. The long-term exposure to benzene has been linked to life-threatening health issues such as leukemia, anemia, and cancer.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has also set up regulations regarding the levels of benzene allowed in the workplace. They set the limits of benzene exposure to one part per million parts of air, on an average of eight hours per day, according to the National; cancer institute.
Inhaling benzene affects the liver, kidneys, and bone tissues. Your car’s manual even says that you should open the car windows before turning on the air conditioning, but they never explain why.
Before it starts to cool the air, the air conditioner blows out all the hot air – including benzene. When you sit in your car and you notice the smell of burnt plastic, open the windows for a couple minutes before you turn on the AC. Then, slowly ease the pressure of the air up as you release the fumes through the window. Circulation is everything.