Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project hosts engine-idling seminar

The Wellesley Townsman
By Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project

Wellesley – “Cleaner air equals 21 more weeks of life“ (Reuters, Thursday, Jan 22, 2009)

Imagine being able to add 21 weeks onto your life! The Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project is conducting a seminar on air quality as it pertains to engine idling, so the above headline from Reuters caught my eye when I saw the article on-line a few weeks ago. The New England Journal of Medicine article cited by Reuters above summed up the latest studies which conclude that, with cleaner air, we can actually add an extra 21 weeks of life onto our lifespan. The study specifically noted that one of the ways that we have been able to improve air quality is by reducing fine particles given off by automobiles. Imagine being able to add even more weeks to your life or the life of your child if we continue this effort by eliminating the air pollution caused by idling your vehicle.

If that statistic isn’t enough to convince you, imagine, in this difficult economic time, being able to save close to $250 a year just by changing a single habit for five minutes a day! Idling one’s car is an expensive waste of gasoline. Americans waste 3.8 million gallons of gas every day through idling. A recent study shows that we could save between $113-$241 annually in gas costs, depending on the size of a person’s car, if we reduced idling time by just five minutes a day.

Some idling is unavoidable, for example, if you’re stuck in traffic on Washington Street on a Wednesday afternoon or if your car is parked in your driveway because you do not have a two-car garage and you need to defreeze the car before heading off to work. However, all too often, there are cars left idling in car lines for the pick-ups from schools, and even more questionably outside of the grocery stores or Dunkin’ Donuts.
Leaving our engines idling is, in some cases, due to outdated thinking. Modern engines don’t need to “warm up” for more than 30 seconds before driving as they did when many of us were growing up. Batteries don’t drain nearly as quickly as they used to do; additionally, drivers actually waste more gas if they leave their cars idling for more than 10 seconds than if they turned the engine off and started it up again.
Beyond the tangible financial benefits, reducing unnecessary idling can also prevent the emission of thousands of tons of diesel fumes onto school playgrounds and into school ventilation systems, no matter what the season. Every day, these emissions fill the air we breathe with harmful gases and particulates. Direct links have been made between poor air quality and the frequency of severe respiratory ailments such as asthma, especially in children. That is one reason why the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a legal limit as to how long you can idle your car. M.G.L Chapter 90: Section 16A, states that “No person shall cause, suffer, allow or permit the unnecessary operation of the engine of a motor vehicle while said vehicle is stopped for a foreseeable period of time in excess of five minutes.” So, think about your health, your wallet, and the law. It is easy to turn your car engine off while waiting in the car line outside of your school, at the bank teller, and at the local market/convenience store. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors about the benefits of reduced idling. Encourage them to join you in saving money, protecting the environment, and contributing to a healthier community.

Please join the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project as we present a seminar entitled “The Effects of Engine Idling on Our Health and Environment,” at the Wellesley Free Library on Feb. 24 from 7-9 p.m. Our speakers will be Rick Gregg, chairman of the “Idle-Free” Massachusetts Campaign of the American Lung Association, and Scott B. Keays, public policy manager of the American Lung Association in Massachusetts.

This column was submitted on behalf of the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project by Amanda Zarle and Sara Frost Azzam. For more information, please go to: