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Study: Cancer-Causing Chemicals Detected in Car Air Raises Concerns

A recent study has raised alarming concerns about the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in the air inside vehicles, shedding light on a significant public health issue. Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the research analyzed cabin air samples from 101 electric, gas, and hybrid cars spanning model years 2015 to 2022. The findings revealed that an overwhelming 99% of the vehicles tested contained a flame retardant known as TCIPP, currently under investigation by the US National Toxicology Program for its potential carcinogenic properties.

Moreover, the study detected two additional flame retardants, TDCIPP and TCEP, in most cars, both of which are classified as carcinogenic. These chemicals are not only linked to cancer but also pose risks to neurological and reproductive health, according to scientists involved in the study. Lead researcher Rebecca Hoehn, a toxicology scientist at Duke University, emphasized the significance of the findings, particularly for individuals spending prolonged periods in their vehicles, such as commuters and child passengers, who are more susceptible due to their higher inhalation rates.

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Furthermore, the study highlighted a seasonal variation in the levels of toxic flame retardants, with concentrations peaking during summer months. The researchers attributed this increase to elevated temperatures, which accelerate the release of chemicals from car materials. Seat foam emerged as a primary source of these cancer-causing compounds, with car manufacturers incorporating flame retardants to comply with outdated flammability standards, despite the lack of proven fire-safety benefits.

The implications extend beyond public health concerns, as Patrick Morrison, director of health, safety, and medicine for the International Association of Fire Fighters, emphasized the adverse impact of flame retardants on firefighters. Morrison underscored the urgent need for regulatory action, urging the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to revise flammability standards to eliminate the use of these harmful chemicals in vehicles.

Echoing these sentiments, Lydia Jahl, a senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute and co-author of the study, emphasized the importance of reducing the reliance on flame retardants in vehicle manufacturing. While suggesting practical measures such as opening windows and parking in shaded areas to minimize exposure, Jahl emphasized the critical need for systemic change to mitigate the health risks associated with toxic chemicals in car interiors.

In essence, the study underscores the pressing need for regulatory reforms and industry-wide initiatives to safeguard public health and minimize exposure to harmful chemicals in vehicle interiors.

May 8, 2024 5:51 p.m. 4645

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