carbon monoxideElevated in-car carbon monoxide (CO) levels highlighted
I came upon this very interesting response to the UK’s Department of Transport’s (DfT) MOT consultation by a charity, the CO Research Trust.
It is recommending the introduction of a new test for the presence of in-cabin leakage of exhaust gas.
The recommendation follows recent research funded by the Trust, which found elevated in-car carbon monoxide (CO) levels in 34 per cent of cars tested.
While this was a small sample (26 cars) the public health implications of this are significant, particularly for people who spend a considerable amount of time driving.
The results of this study reproduce several larger studies that have been conducted worldwide.
CO is a colourless, tasteless, odourless, non-irritating gas produced as a by-product during the incomplete combustion of fuels. Exposure to CO can have serious health consequences, and in some cases, can be fatal.
It is accepted that the inhalation of low-level exhaust fumes is damaging to health, with the effect of CO inhalation on cardiovascular, neurological and mitochondrial function being well-documented.
The charity adds that furthermore, pregnant women, children and the unborn are especially vulnerable to its effects.
In-cabin exhaust leaks may also contribute to the incidence of road traffic accidents. The threshold at which elevated carboxyhaemoglobin (the measure of CO in the blood) causes drowsiness has been placed as low as 3.4 per cent per cent, which correlates to approximately 20ppm ambient CO.
From 2030, this issue is likely to become an increasing focus of publicised health inequality, as lower-income households find themselves driving an ageing cohort of petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars.
The Trust believes that in-cabin air quality testing on MOT would be a low-cost, proportional and timely response to this issue.