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2.9 billion gallons is lot of fuel and a lot of money being literally burned away on idling — and spewed out of exhaust pipes and into the atmosphere as air pollution. Smog, NOx gases, carbon monoxide, and ozone are just a few of the noxious products of vehicle exhaust.  These pollutants can be a serious health concern, especially during the summertime in urban areas.

Air pollution is worse on hot summer days, especially in cities. The reason is because the more intense sunlight basically cooks the exhaust chemicals in the air, exacerbating the formation of smog and other pollutants. Certain air pollutants are known as photochemical oxidants — meaning that their creation is related to quantity of sunlight and ultraviolet radiation.

Ozone, one of the most potent consequences of vehicle exhaust, is one such photochemical oxidant. Hot summer days and a large volume of idling, air-conditioned cars is a recipe for a high concentration of ground-level ozone. Ozone is great when it’s up in the stratosphere protecting us from cancer-causing UV rays, but it’s not something we want in the air that we breathe. Inhalation of ozone can cause a variety of respiratory problems and severely impair lung function. Read all about ozone here.

Ever wonder why you get better gas mileage on the highway than in the city? It’s because of the idling during the stop-and-go traffic.

Idling emissions are a serious problem in many urban areas where heavier, slower car traffic in combination with typically tight spatial layout of buildings causes ozone to become trapped on street level. Because cities also have denser populations and more pedestrians in the streets, especially in the summer, ozone (and other photochemical oxidant) exposure rates are typically higher. Children are especially susceptible to ozone and, as a result, many children in traffic-heavy city neighborhoods have asthma.

Idling by the curb on a hot summer day is not a good idea.

Cutting back on the amount of time you spend idling can only be beneficial to you, other people, and the planet. There are lots of things you can do… Turn off your car while waiting to pick someone up. Avoid stop-and-go driving. If you endure a traffic-heavy commute, arrange a carpool. Park your car at the fast food joint and get out instead of going through the drive-through.  And, of course, if you can get there on your bike or on your feet, do it.

Reduce idling, reduce emissions, save money.

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.