Friday, February 10, 2006

Dog walk & lead foot starts & air pollution

It's quite amazing how many people put the pedal to the metal on a cold motor. I walk our dog taking a short cut through a townhouse complex to get to a park on the other side and in the process we're exposed to toxic fumes from people rushing to work even at the early hour of 6:30 am. Surprising that they are late at that hour or is it just that we are habituated to drive like we're late all the time? We are sometimes enveloped by the partially and unburnt hydrocarbons and I've had to hold my breath to keep from breathing the gas. The poor dog just suffers through it - at least she's closer to the ground.

Still days are the worse. On a humid day you can at least see the cloud of fumes so it's easier to avoid and windy days are best. The drivers don't know how much raw unburnt gas comes out of the tailpipe before the catalytic converter heats up enough to burn off the pollutants. Of course with the advent of fuel injected engines the car manufacturers and supposedly car experts have told people to drive off easily for the first mile or two without warming up the engine. They warn you against idling the engine saying that deposits will build up on the injectors if you do. With carburetors you had to warm up the engine in cold weather or you could stall out. With the good driveability of fuel injected engines you can accelerate as fast as you want at the get go without stalling. So guess what? My dog and I get a good snoot and lungfuls of foul air. And the environment too.

I read a news article by a master mechanic recommending warming up the car by idling it for about 2-5 minutes before driving off saying that it would not harm the engine nor increase the deposits on the injectors. Having to walk through the death cloud everyday I would agree with him providing that's enough time to get the catalytic converter working.

If you could somehow direct the fumes back to the driver I bet this drag strip boogie wouldn't happen in the morning.

An interesting aside, in metro areas apparently drivers are subjected to more pollutants than pedestrians!

Scientific American: Pedestrians Inhale Less Pollution than Passengers

Also, think you're safe from pollution in your car? Read this article on new car smell from comsumeraffairs.com about PDBEs.

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