Imagine – It’s a hot day, extra hot, as so many days this summer have been. As you get ready to go to work, do you give a second thought to the conditions your car has been sitting in? Because the car’s operations manual gives a brief warning about the situation: Open your car’s windows before turning on the air conditioning.

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Why? It turns out that the heat our cars sit in leads to the release of a potentially harmful chemical, benzene. Parked in the shade, our cars may accumulate 400-800 mg of the chemical; in full sun, anywhere from 2000-4000 mg, more than 40 times the recommended level!

Benzene is released from the breakdown of plastics in many of our car’s working systems and interior. It’s partly responsible for the “new car smell”, but may end up causing serious harm in large amounts. Cancer of the lungs, liver, bone, and kidneys may be a result of consistent overexposure to benzene.

There’s an easy way to prevent exposure to this dangerous chemical. By opening the car’s windows before turning on the air conditioner, it allows the hot air ejected by the system to escape from the windows. If the windows are left up, the benzene will continue to circulate in the car, affecting the driver and all the passengers.

We continue to experience the hotter temperatures that come with global climate change, please make sure to roll down your windows before turning on the A/C in your car! It’s better for your health and all the passengers to let the benzene that has accumulated in the heat to dissipate before going on to drive.