Clean Cars - Clean Air

Sep. 30, 2009

A car is a major investment, second only to buying a house, for most people. Part of the cost of a modern car is its pollution control system -- the catalytic converter and other equipment that removes smog-forming pollution from the tailpipe.

Maintaining your car will help you protect your investment, help your car run better, improve your gas mileage -- and also help fight smog.  Come learn about why you should worry about air pollution, what causes air pollution and how cars create air pollution. 

Why Should I Worry About Air Pollution?

Polluted air can shorten your life and make you sick. It can cause coughing, chest pains and shortness of breath. Some chemicals found in polluted air cause cancer, birth defects, nerve damage and long-term injury to lungs and breathing passages. Air pollution also damages the environment.

What Causes Air Pollution?

Air pollution comes from factories, businesses, consumer products, and, most of all, from cars, trucks and buses. Pollution from vehicles cause two of our worst air pollution problems, smog and carbon monoxide.

Ozone, or smog, irritates the lungs, eyes and other tissues. It can cause or worsen respiratory problems. Smog can be a serious problem for anyone whose lungs are working hard -- children, the elderly, those with lung disease and even healthy adults exercising outdoors during a smog episode.

Carbon monoxide interferes with the blood's ability to carry oxygen to the brain. CO can slow reflexes and affect thinking skills. Pregnant women and people with heart or lung disease are particularly at risk. In high concentrations, carbon monoxide kills.

But Aren't Today's Cars Clean?

Cars are much less polluting today than they were in the 1960's. But there are more cars on the road today, and we drive more. More than 195 million cars and trucks are on the road, averaging more than two per family. We drive an astounding 6.3 billion miles every single day, compared to 2.4 billion in 1965.

Today's urban sprawl means more driving, making smog a regional problem. Most of the worst smog readings occur in the suburbs and even in state and national parks away from our cities.