Car Advice

Car email hoax says air-conditioning causes cancer

Not everything you read on the Internet is true, particularly if it comes as an urgent email warning… The latest one is that your car’s air-conditioning causes cancer.

Here’s an email hoax that’s doing the rounds, again:

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 air-conditioning after a couple of minutes.

Here’s why:

According to a 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. May also cause miscarriage.

Acceptable Benzene level indoors is 50 mg 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.

Please forward this email to anyone you care about so word gets out.  According to the federal police, you could safe a life!  Read and share…

This is a hoax and car users have nothing to be worried about.  However, there is, like most of these hoaxes, a grain of truth to it. 

Benzene is indeed a toxic chemical that is harmful to humans, and is linked to cancer.  It is used in many consumer goods, including car interiors, and car interiors can give off trace amounts of benzene, especially in hot weather. 

However…the amounts are negligible, so there’s nothing to worry about.  These days, it is all too easy hear the deranged rants from the likes of the the anti-vaccine crazies who pick some dangerous-sounding ingredient, say it’s toxic (true) and then scare everyone by claiming it’s in some food or other (also true) but then extrapolate that into some form of danger to humankind (not true), all organised by some sinister power (not true either).   Or someone shares some entirely made-up but semi-plausible story designed to stoke the fires of prejudice, and it gets shared like it is a fact.

The reality is that excess amounts of anything will kill you, even plain old water.  And on that note, water is also used in pretty much every poison, weedkiller and other really nasty stuff.   So just because a substance is toxic in tiny doses doesn’t mean to say it’s a problem, and that’s the case here.

It is easy to pick these stupid hoaxes when you know how.  Here’s a guide:

How to pick an email hoax

Car A/C (Air Conditioning) MUST READ!!!  They always have MUST READ or some other exhortation, and overuse of !!!!

Please do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car.  There’s capitals.  A giveaway hoax TRADEMARK!!!!
Open the windows after you enter your car and turn ON the air-conditioning after a couple of minutes.  Here’s the appeal. It kind of sounds semi-plausible, the grain of truth.  And it’s interesting.

Here’s why:

According to a 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).  What research?  Who did it?  When?  Where’s the hyperlink to the original work?  But they’re clever…we’ve all smelled hot plastic haven’t we, so the hoax plays on that.  The use of odd capitals (Cancer, Benzene) is also a hallmark of hoax emails and tinfoil hat people in general.

In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells.  But they don’t mention just how much you need of it, or over what period of time, or how one might exposed to it.

Prolonged exposure will cause Leukemia, increasing the risk of cancer. May also cause miscarriage.

Acceptable Benzene level indoors is 50 mg per sq. ft.  Where did this figure come from?  Adults or children?  Ventilation?  Also..square feet.  That should be cubic feet, no?  And it’s mixing metric and imperial, which is another sign that this may not quite be legit.

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…

Here’s the scare.  Again, no authority cited.

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

OK, so if that was true, with millions of cars around the world surely we’d have heard something about it before now?  Of course, the conspiracy theory crazies would then say the reason it is kept quiet is because of a world domination ploy to poison the population.

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.

The ask.  There’s always instructions.  And it kind of seems believable because it plays on common fears (cancer, inhalation of toxins), and links back to common experiences (nasty smell of plastics in hot cars).   It seems harmless enough.  Maybe the people who write them are just dumb and well meaning.  But more likely, the originator was pretty smart and though it would be fun to see how far a hoax email could get.  Well, I hope they’re happy now!

Please forward this email to anyone you care about so word gets out.  According to the federal police, you could safe a life!  Read and share…

And there it is.  There’s always the read-share-pass-on-anyone-you-care-about angle.  Every time.

There’s much more on this topic in particular and hoaxes in general at these two sites:

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/automobiles/a/benzene_in_car.htm

http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/benzene.asp

which are the first places you should turn to next time you have an URGENT MESSAGE advising you to change the way you’ve done something for years to avoid some risk you’ve never heard of.

 


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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper