Pollution triggers – how cars work to keep you safe

In a world where seemingly every second headline contains the dreaded “Covid-19” acronym, a simple sneeze or cough can often send anxiety levels soaring.

While it is certainly smart to be cautious when faced with a sudden onset of the sniffles, it is also worth keeping in mind that many symptoms of pollen allergies mimic those of the novel coronavirus disease.

What does this have to do with cars, you ask? Well, some modern premium vehicles are available with clever built-in filtration systems capable of keeping occupants safe from common allergens and pollutants, in turn preventing or minimising sometimes worrying symptoms of hay fever or other everyday allergic responses.

For instance, Volvo’s new Advanced Air Cleaner technology, available in all 60 and 90 Series models based on the Scalable Product Architecture, features a sensor that measures PM 2.5 levels inside the cabin. Here, “PM” stands for “particulate matter”, while “2.5” refers to a category of particulate pollutant measuring 2.5 microns or smaller in size. These tiny particles can be harmful to humans since they are small enough to evade the body’s built-in barriers (such as hair and mucus in the nasal passages).

The Swedish firm’s system includes a synthetic fibre-based filter and an ionisation function that work to optimise air quality inside the vehicle (preventing up to 95% of all PM 2.5 particles from entering), thus limiting the adverse health effects associated with air pollution and other harmful fine particulates. Drivers who use the Volvo On Call smartphone app are furthermore able to schedule the cleaning of cabin air before setting off on a journey.

While pollutants technically do not cause common allergies, they can certainly exacerbate them by irritating the respiratory system. In addition, the quality of the air we breathe can also have a direct impact on driver concentration.

Considering South Africa has some serious pollution problems, in 2019, Greenpeace declared the coal-fired power plant and industrial cluster in Mpumalanga as the world’s worst hotspot for power plant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions. Such filtration systems can prove particularly beneficial to local drivers. Similarly, clean cabin air is advantageous to those travelling in areas such as the Highveld, which is known to experience a lengthy grass pollen season spanning much of the year.

In the right car, then, the air inside can be significantly cleaner and healthier than the air outside.

Who is Ryan Bubear?

Ryan has spent the vast majority of his journalism career in online media (with a spot of print sprinkled in for good measure), writing about everything from sport to politics. But his true passion has long been of the automotive variety.
These days, he is a freelance motoring editor and writer covering a broad range of car-themed topics.
Just don’t ask him why his 1971 Austin Mini Mk3 is still not on the road…

Source: Nikki Chennells /

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