Close convertible top in traffic jam
If you drive a convertible, close the top while you’re in a traffic jam. In a closed car, use the air recirculation button. These are recommendations from the Dutch ‘Longfonds’, to warn for the effects of exhaust gasses on lungs.
Real-time emissions unknown
Longfonds director, Michael Rutgers, says the amounts of CO and particles are far higher than the WHO safe limits. The exact quantity is unknown because the presence of these substances is generally calculated rather than measured. “If you have bad luck and end up behind a 20-year-old truck, it can be filthy,” says RIVM air quality researcher Joost Wesseling.
Driving a convertible is pure luxury for some people, but stuck in traffic on a summer’s day is not. “Cars should automatically stop their engines while in a traffic jam,” says lung surgeon Hans in ‘t Veen. He’s unsure if convertibles are worse because you also get more fresh air when the wind blows.
“I get the romance and emotion of driving a convertible,” says car journalist Niek Schenk. “But the practical benefits are gone since the invention of airconditioning. You breathe filthy air, go deaf from the noise, and burn alive when it’s sunny. Sales figures for convertibles are much lower in Spain than here in the North.”
According to the Dutch car importer organization RAI, sales of convertibles are stable. In the first half of this year, 1.362 were registered. About 240.000 convertibles are in use in The Netherlands.
Not only convertible drivers but also those driving a closed top car get to breathe bad air. Cars get the air for ventilation from the front, effectively sucking in exhaust gasses. Carmakers are installing advanced filters to keep the bad air out.
Tesla installs a huge filter that – according to the company – keeps 99,97 % of chemicals, pollen, particles, bacteria, and fungi out. “Good enough to survive a chemical attack,” in Elon Musk’s own words.
Other premium brands have adopted complex HEPA-filters, sometimes with active carbon. They measure the air quality and automatically turn on recirculation if needed.
According to Rutgers, every car should have advanced filters and automatic recirculation. Until that happens, Longfonds advises to turn on recirculation yourself, when stuck in traffic.
Some cars even filter recirculated air, which continuously improves it. Wesseling: “A good filter, like in most modern cars, keeps out a lot of particles. You can also have the standard filter changed for a quality filter.”