COVID-19 has changed how we are celebrating Halloween this year with more focus on safety and physical distancing during the fun. It’s expected that costumes may be creepy, but the air shouldn’t be scary to breathe. If your plans involve using your vehicle, the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality’s Clean Air Program suggests that you consider turning the engine off, if waiting more than 10 seconds, to keep the air free from health-damaging tailpipe emissions.
Exhaust from idling vehicles is not good for anyone to breathe, particularly the lungs of young superheroes, princesses and zombies. The temperatures have finally reached the point where turning off the engine is the perfect solution to avoiding idling. Although invisible, vehicle exhaust can contain poisonous gases and chemicals including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde, benzene and soot. Breathing these fumes is particularly harmful for children because their lungs are not fully developed and they tend to be more active and breathe more rapidly than adults, so they inhale more of the toxic gases. Studies have linked various negative health outcomes in children exposed to vehicle pollution including:
- Reduced lung function;
- Respiratory infection;
- Decreased cognitive performance; and
- Asthma and chronic respiratory symptoms.
Contrary to popular belief, it makes financial, mechanical and air quality sense to turn your engine off (except in traffic), if you are going to be idling for more than a short period. Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and emits more greenhouse gases and other pollutants than turning off and restarting the engine. You will also protect your car’s engine if you idle less because idling can cause damage to engine parts like cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system.
For more information, visit the idle reduction page at www.pima.gov/deq.