According to analysis by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the average American commuter spends 42 hours per year stuck in rush-hour traffic1. Americans drive twice as many miles and spend more than double the amount of time in traffic than in 19802.
Not only is traffic shaving more and more time off of our day, it also detracts from your overall health and even puts you at risk of certain cancers!
Welcome to another week in wellness with Purely Simple Organic Living! Today we are going to be talking about the negative health effects of traffic.
Researchers have recently been looking at the health implications of spending long hours in our cars. Long-term exposure to vehicle exhaust is associated with respiratory problems, especially in children3.
Traffic has been implicated in measurable exhaustion, an increase in blood pressure, negative attitudinal shifts, and a constant release of stress hormones. Not to mention, constant sun exposure in cars increases one’s risk of skin cancer4.
Idling vehicles add to pollution, which has environmental and health consequences, including contributions to climate change.
Traffic and Pollution
The World Health Organization (WHO) describe outdoor air pollution as a “major environmental risk to health,” and have classified air pollution in cities as being as carcinogenic to humans as smoking was in February 19855. This can contribute to health problems like asthma and lung cancer, to heart disease and stroke5.
Traffic jams and congestion wherein cars are idling around you pose the greatest risk of inhaling toxic emissions. Scientists found that having your window closed but keeping the fan on puts you at the highest risk of exposure while in traffic, due to the pollution from the outside air that gets circulated in the vehicle5. This study also found that having your window closed and the fan off can lower your exposure to pollutants by 76%5.
Traffic and UV Exposure
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is present in sunlight. Approximately 95% of the sun’s UV rays that touch the ground are UVA, while the remaining 5% are UVB. UVB rays have more energy than UVA, and they are implicated as the main rays that cause sunburns4.
Glass effectively blocks UVB, and front windshields are specially treated to block UVA as well, but a car’s side and rear windows allow UVA to penetrate. UV ray exposure is cumulative, though, and studies have found that, even behind window glass, skin exposure to sunlight can lead to significant skin damage over time4. A study by Singer et al. found that people in the United States had sun-induced skin damage, precancers, brown spots, and deeper wrinkles on the left side of their face due to UV exposure while driving4.
Traffic and Stress
Undoubtedly, sitting in traffic takes a toll on our overall mood and emotional state, and it will only get worse as streets become more crowded and congested. A professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh has found that sitting in traffic or commuting in general can raise blood pressure and irritability, but they return to normal levels after you get out of the car5.
This makes sense as experts have seen a rise in road rage-induced incidents in recent years across the country, with some even proving fatal6. Many publications in 2019 have deemed road rage a “public safety threat” as more and more incidences have resulted in injury or death.
How to Make a Healthier Commute
Walking, cycling, carpooling, or riding the bus are all healthier and often cheaper alternatives to traveling! When you must drive, though, follow these tips to help prevent some of the negative health impacts we’ve discussed so far:
Map ahead of time! See where areas of congestion are and consider an alternative route.
When in traffic jams or around idling cars, turn off your fan or make sure it
Wear at least an SPF 15 sunscreen to prevent skin damage from UV exposure.
When you find yourself feeling stressed in traffic, breathe. Breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 3 counts, and release for 3 counts. This is helpful in relaxing the body and stabilizing blood pressure.
Try and reframe your perspective about traffic! Understand that everyone has somewhere to be and working cooperatively will help everyone get to their destination safely. Or, think of it as an opportunity to listen to your favorite song or podcast.
Listen to binaural beats as you drive. These healing tones target the mind and the body and provide relaxation and restoration.
At Purely Simple Organic Living we aim to educate and empower our clients to make the healthiest choices for themselves and their lifestyle. If you feel abnormally stressed, irritable, anxious, or if you suffer from respiratory problems like asthma or recurring infections, PSOL can help get you back to healthy!
Our amethyst crystal infused biomat and oxygen bar are great ways to reduce stress and tension in the mind and the body. We offer aromatherapy using the power of pure, Young Living essential oils to shift your mental state, mood, and ability to take positive action. We also offer THC free, pharmacy formulated CBD oil that combats anxiety and depression, reduces nausea, and naturally relieves pain and inflammation.
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