Smoking, extended idling add up to trouble
I found an article that will make you think twice about idling in a big rig for very long or smoking cigarettes with the windows up. The Journal of Circulation published an article by Dr. C. Arden Pope of Brig-ham Young University on heart attacks and air pollution. Basically, Dr. Pope compared patients with acute coronary syndrome requiring cardiac catheterization at a local Salt Lake City hospital and particulate matter in the air on any given day.
Several risk factors were identified including the severity of the patient heart disease. These risk factors were correlated statistically with air pollution data for two sizes of particulate matter. Dr. Pope looked at particulate size </= 10 microns and </= 2.5 microns. The model looked at exposure prior to the cardiac event extending back 48 hours and stratified this with the identified risk factors. As expected, smoking tobacco was associated with the highest of any associated risk factors. I would like to point out that the particulate sizes listed are very small and would be able to pass down to the very smallest parts of the lung called alveoli.
Although this study is not directed at professional drivers, it can be extrapolated back to a situation that all drivers face on a daily basis. This would be resting in an idling truck with the windows up in the middle of winter and smoking.
Let’s put the above study together with an excellent study done by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. This UT study studied air quality inside and outside of idling trucks. The scientists found that while the air inside these trucks was less contaminated than the air surrounding the truck outside, the cabs still contained small particles that may be the sizes listed above.
Dr. Wayne T. Davis found that when looking at diesel truck cab air quality measurements that CO levels were insignificant. However, fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide concentrations were high but under most OSHA and NIOSH standards. Still the concentrations noted by Dr. Davis were not what I consider ideal resting air quality.
Does this mean that a driver with advanced coronary heart disease is not at risk? We don’t know the answer. Please err on the side of caution and see your doctor to discuss your risk factors. Get a stress test if indicated. Use idle-free technology when you need to stay warm or cool.
Thanks for your service. What would the USA do without over-the-road professionals? You Kings of the Highway and Queens of the Interstate are truly the heart and soul of our country.
Dr. John McElligott is the founder of Professional Drivers Medical Depots (pd-md.com), a planned nationwide network of medical clinics located at truck stops and travel centers.