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Sitting in traffic isn't just bad for your mood, it's bad for your health

A new study finds that pollution levels in cars can be 40 percent higher while idling in traffic.


Better hold your breath.

Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

There's no good way to put a positive spin on traffic. It's likely to enrage you, but according to a new study, it might also make you sick. Rather, you're more likely to be exposed to pollution while sitting in traffic versus moving down the road unabated.

A study from the University of Surrey shows that pollution levels inside cars stuck in traffic can be 40 percent higher than when the car is moving freely down the road. The reasoning is fairly obvious -- a high concentration of vehicles in one place, emitting pollutants of some sort, will leave a cloud of nastiness through which drivers must wade.

Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate this exposure, even if they sound a bit uncomfortable. The study claims that the best way to beat traffic pollution is to sit in your car with the windows closed and the fan off. Sounds perfect for August. It's also safe to set your climate control to re-circulate the air already inside the car, which prevents outside pollutants from making their way in.

It's not limited to traffic jams, either. Because traffic lights feature a number of idling vehicles throughout the day, pollution exposure rises when sitting at a light, as well. Basically, no matter what you do, unless you want to bake yourself alive in your car, you're boned.

Other than switching your fan settings, there are no good ways to cut back on this pollution. Aside from, you know, buying electric cars, buying hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (the only emission is water), removing cars from the road by using public transportation, taking the long way into the office and sealing yourself inside a bubble with a HEPA filter.

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