All things considered: work without a commute seems pretty great, but when you consider the health benefits as well, it gets even better.
In fact, those that commute via car for 20 minutes or longer are breathing in chemicals at dangerous levels that increase the risk for cancer and birth defects, according to a new study.
The commutes of the old days
As many workers dream of getting their commute back once the pandemic settles, they’ve found ways to recreate their morning and after-work rituals while working-from-home. Scheduled coffee walks in neighborhoods are up; people physically getting into cars and riding with rush hour traffic is a thing. It’s called the remote commute, and it’s given workers some semblance of normalcy during these rocky times as they try to balance work and life together at home.
For those not in love with commuting, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a breath of fresh air in regard to freeing up time in the day that wasn’t there before. Workers coming from outside cities that had spent more than an hour commuting one-way now have time to relax in the morning instead of rushing out the door just as the morning dew settles on the ground.
Saving time without a commute not only allows people to relax more both before and after work, but it’s also saving workers a fortune. A study in 2019 found that commuters in Fremont, Calif. spent on average $12,801 on their commute annually, averaging to about $49 per workday. Workers in the Tri-State area rack up similar costs, but spend the most time on the roads, with New York City and two New Jersey cities — Jersey City and Newark — following closely behind with commutes north of 35 minutes one way.
Your commute was killing you (literally)
Researchers from the University of California – Riverside found that the average commuter in California breathes in unsustainably high levels of benzene and formaldehyde, which are known to cause cancer at certain levels of exposure.
The two chemicals, known to be on the Prop. 65-listed chemicals, are carcinogens, which is a substance that can cause cancer in living tissue. Benzene, in particular, carries the risk of reproductive and developmental problems, according to the study.
The findings, published in the journal Environment International, found that 90% of the population in popular California counties — including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange — have at least a 10% chance of exceeding cancer risk by inhaling these chemicals, which was calculated based on 30-minute commute times.
“These chemicals are very volatile, moving easily from plastics and textiles to the air that you breathe,” David Volz, professor of environmental toxicology at University of California – Riverside, said in a press release.
Aalekhya Reddam, the lead author of the study, said that exposure ranges on how long commuters spend in their cars and how much compounds cars are emitting.
Reddam said that commuters who travel for work should look to keep their windows open during rides since air flow will be “diluting the concentration of these chemicals inside your car.”