New study finds cancer-causing chemicals in car cabin air

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Flame retardant fiasco: Study warns of car cabin air contamination with carcinogens.

NEW YORK, May 8: A recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology has uncovered alarming findings regarding the air quality inside vehicles, revealing that passengers are unknowingly exposed to cancer-causing chemicals during their commutes.

Conducted by researchers from Duke University, the study analyzed the cabin air of 101 electric, gas, and hybrid cars manufactured between 2015 and 2022. Shockingly, the study found that 99% of the cars examined contained trace amounts of a flame retardant known as TCIPP, currently under investigation by the US National Toxicology Program for its potential carcinogenic properties. Additionally, most cars harbored two other flame retardants, TDCIPP and TCEP, both of which are considered carcinogenic and have been linked to neurological and reproductive harms.

Lead researcher Rebecca Hoehn, a toxicology scientist at Duke University, emphasized the gravity of the findings, stating, “Considering the average driver spends about an hour in the car every day, this is a significant public health issue.” She further expressed concern for individuals with longer commutes and child passengers, who are particularly vulnerable due to their higher rates of air intake relative to adults.

Moreover, the study revealed that levels of toxic flame retardants were highest during the summer months, attributed to increased chemical release from car materials due to elevated temperatures. The primary source of these cancer-causing compounds in the cabin air was identified as seat foam. Car manufacturers incorporate these chemicals into seat foam and other materials to comply with a flammability standard, despite the lack of evidence supporting their effectiveness in fire prevention.

Patrick Morrison, director of health, safety, and medicine for the International Association of Fire Fighters, echoed concerns regarding the use of flame retardants in vehicles, citing their contribution to elevated cancer rates among firefighters. Morrison urged the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to update flammability standards to eliminate the need for flame-retardant chemicals in vehicles.

The researchers emphasized that these toxic flame retardants offer no tangible benefits inside vehicles and advocated for their reduction in car manufacturing. Lydia Jahl, a senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute and study author, suggested practical measures for reducing exposure to these chemicals, such as opening car windows and parking in shaded areas or garages. However, Jahl stressed the importance of addressing the root cause by minimizing the use of flame retardants in car production, emphasizing the need to mitigate cancer risks associated with daily commutes and protect children from harmful chemical exposure.

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