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Drivers exposed to more harmful pollution inside vehicle than on the road, finds new study

Gloucestershire-based Enviro Technology Services carried out a journey from Reading to central London in its mobile air quality laboratory – nicknamed the smogmobile – sampling air inside and outside the vehicle every minute and found that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were on average 21% higher inside with the windows shut than on the road outside.

Meanwhile the Air Quality Monitoring Vehicle also found levels of NO2 inside the vehicle reaching up to 350µg m3 for brief periods in central London. The EU sets an hourly safety limit of 200 µg m3 and an annual limit of 40 µg m3.

Dr Ben Barratt, Lecturer in Air Quality Science at King’s College London, said: “This illustrative study adds to mounting evidence that vehicles provide little protection from harmful traffic pollution, and drivers and their passengers may even be exposed to higher levels than on the road outside.

“These initial findings highlight the urgent need for further investigation into the health risks faced by motorists and their passengers. It is especially important to understand the impacts of air pollution on professional motorists such as taxi and lorry drivers, who spend many hours behind the wheel each day.”

Duncan Mounsor, managing director of Enviro Technology Services, added: “Air pollution causes more than 50,000 deaths a year in the UK and costs the economy billions. We have developed the Air Quality Monitoring Vehicle to give local authorities and researchers a powerful new tool to plan action to clean up our air and tackle one of our greatest public health challenges.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.