Is the Inside of Your Car Making You Sick?
Have you ever had food poisoning and blamed it on that burger you gulped down from a fast food restaurant? You could have the wrong culprit. In fact, you may not have to look any further than your own car. Hopefully you had health insurance to cover your medical bills. Unfortunately, your car insurance won’t cover your car’s unhealthy interior environment.
Sure – you love your car, you maintain it, and you wash the exterior on a regular basis – but are you really keeping the insides clean enough to protect yourself from unseen dangers lurking throughout your car’s interior? If not, you could be sitting in the middle of a breeding farm for dust mites, mold and infection-causing bacteria.
A study conducted several years ago by researchers at Queen Mary University in London showed that, on average, there are 700 different kinds of bacteria on your steering wheel. Compare that with the average public toilet seat, where there are “only” 80 types of bacteria. Lesson here: Carry hand sanitizer in your car, and use anti-bacterial wipes to clean surfaces in your car that are regularly touched.
Do you have allergies? Chalk it up to dust mites. Dust mites are right at home in upholstered seats. And now that warmer weather is approaching, it is even more important to not leave any food debris in your car – bacteria can multiply on even tiny crumbs. Also, if you have pets that ride in your car, be aware that animal paws carry bacteria that can transmit a whole bunch of nasty problems. When’s the last time you vacuumed the floor mats and the seats in your car?
Pollen found inside cars is another problem, especially in the spring. Using a disinfectant wipe to clear dust and germs from surfaces can help cut down on allergy attacks.
What about rental cars? Don’t even get me started – they can be hotbeds for breeding germs. Consider what a study by NBC’s Today Show on rental cars from six of the top rental companies in Miami turned up. A team of microbiologists swabbed the cars’ interiors, including the steering wheel, switchgear, knobs, and handles and found:
• Dried vomit
• Strains of bacteria linked to stomach bugs and the flu virus
• Bacteria on a rented child seat that could cause strep throat
Tips to Keep Out Mold
• Run air-conditioning on the “outside air” setting as often as possible; not on the re-circulated air setting. Outside air eliminates old moisture in the system, decreasing contamination risk.
• Only use the “max” setting until you reach a comfortable temperature (max uses the re-circulated air).
• Never leave the A/C set on “max” while the engine is off. Outside air can’t enter because the vents are closed. A buildup of heat and moisture creates a hot zone for fungi and bacteria.
• Prevent fungi growth by eliminating water accumulation in the vents. Use a long brush with a cloth around it that can reach into the vent to clean out spores.
• Kill fungi by running your heater for 10 minutes.
• Change your filter every year.
Preventive maintenance will go a long way to protecting you and your car. Like having the right car insurance.
Do you think regularly cleaning your car can help keep you healthier? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.