Man with air pollution mask

The list of detrimental health effects from vehicle air pollution sounds like a little shop of horrors. Outdoor air pollution from cars, SUVs, trucks, and buses:

  • Cause acute respiratory problems, temporary decreases in lung capacity, and inflammation of lung tissue
  • Impair the body’s immune system
  • Reduce the release of oxygen to body tissues
  • Increase a person’s risk of cancer-related death
  • Contribute to birth defects, low birth weight, and infant deaths
  • Harm blood vessels in healthy individuals
  • Make healthy active children 3 to 4 times more likely to develop asthma

If the air pollution doesn’t kill you, getting run over just might. During the 20th century, 250 million Americans were maimed or injured in automobile accidents. Car crashes are the top killers of children in the United States and elsewhere. Every day in the U.S., an average of over 120 people are killed in car accidents.

And we all run the risk of a slow death (or at least a diminished quality of life) as a result of driving-related stress (a.k.a. road rage) and our lazy “drive everywhere” attitude. A century ago, the typical American walked three miles a day. Now, we drive our SUVs to the gym. Cars undoubtedly have contributed to the decline of exercise in America, and the advance of our obesity epidemic.