Not only are traffic jams a total rage-inducing drag, but new scientific studies have confirmed they are also bad for our health. Sitting 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. Luckily, taking a few simple steps will reduce your risk of exposure.

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Researchers from the University of Surrey have published studies over the last two years highlighting the risks of sitting in traffic. One study showed that those stuck behind the wheel, whether in a jam or at a red light with a car in front of them, are exposed to 29 times more pollution particles than those cruising down the street. As you can expect, the emissions from idling cars can build up quickly, putting drivers, passengers, and even nearby pedestrians at risk.

Related: Paris just banned all cars built before 1997 to fight air pollution

One way to reduce exposure to pollution while stuck in traffic is to keep the car windows rolled up. This might not be appealing during hot summer months, so circulating air from inside the car is a less sweaty option. Seeing as the World Health Organization reported that 7 million people died from exposure to air pollution in 2012, however, sacrificing a cool breeze and arriving at work with pit stains seems doesn’t sound so bad.


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