There are Harmful Levels of Benzene That Build Up in Parked Automobiles So Roll Down Your Windows-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

A warning about a chemical called benzene that is linked to cancer such as leukemia .  The warning says that benzene can build up inside parked automobiles and suggests that drivers roll down their windows to ventilate the car’s interior prior to switching on the air conditioner.

The Truth:

Benzene is a harmful chemical that can exist both inside vehicles and in the open air but warnings such as this eRumor about airing out your car interior may be overblown. 

The American Chemical Society released a report in 2007 saying that the interiors of motor vehicles were found to contain of  a “wide variety of synthetic materials, which emit volatile organic compounds.”  The investigation concluded that there was no indication of the emissions being any sort of “apparent health hazard of parked motor vehicle indoor air.”   Click for report.

Benzene comes from coal and petroleum products and is one of the most commonly made chemicals in the United States.  It is a colorless liquid with a sweet smell that evaporates when it makes contact with the air.  Benzene is present in cigarette smoke, car exhausts, and can also be found in glues and paints, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  The CDC Fact Sheet on Benzene says, “Breathing in unusually high doses of benzene can cause difficulty in thinking, changes in heart function, unconsciousness, or death. In smaller amounts over longer periods of time, benzene can also decrease the formation of blood cells. Benzene is considered to be a cancer-causing chemical.”  

Exposure to benzene can come from consuming contaminated food or beverages but most people come into contact with it by breathing it in the air. The CDC says, “Benzene gets into the air from forest fires, car emissions, gasoline vapors, and tobacco smoke. People who work with petroleum products, including gasoline, are exposed to benzene by touching or breathing in the chemical.”

This warning might have been sparked by a report from almost decade ago by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).  In a December 19, 2001 report, the organization found “high levels of air toxic emissions in new motor vehicles for up to six months and longer after they leave the showroom.” That research, however was conducted on three automobiles manufactured in Australia and one imported vehicle, the origin of which was not revealed.

updated 04/29/10

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Car Air-conditioning – MUST READ!!

No wonder more folks are dying from cancer than ever before. We wonder where this stuff comes from but here is an example that explains a lot of the cancer causing incidents. Hmmm. Many people are in their cars first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, 7 days a week. As I read this, it makes me feel guilty and ill. Please pass this on to as many people as possible. Guess its not too late to make some changes

Car A/C (Air Conditioning) MUST READ!!!
Please do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car.

Open the windows after you enter your car and turn ON the AC after a couple of minutes.

Here’s why: According to research, the car dashboard, sofa, air freshener emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin (carcinogen – take time to observe the smell of heated plastic in your car).

In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure will cause Leukemia, increasing the risk of cancer. Can also cause miscarriage.

Acceptable Benzene level indoors is 50mg per sq.ft. A car parked indoors with windows closed will contain 400-800 mg of Benzene.

If parked outdoors under the sun at a temperature above 60 degrees F, the Benzene level goes up to 2000-4000 mg, 40 times the acceptable level.

People who get into the car, keeping windows closed will inevitably inhale, in quick succession, excessive amounts of the toxin.

Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidney and liver.. What’s worse, it is extremely difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff.

So friends, please open the windows and door of your car – give time for interior to air out -dispel the deadly stuff – before you enter.

Thought: ‘When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others.’