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Connecting the Oil Dots: Spill, Idling and Asthma

August 9, 2010

From the desk of Joanna Hamblin, connect with her @goodnaturegirl

With the on-going news of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the Kalamazoo River, many people and businesses feel confused and overwhelmed about what they can do to help. Send hair clippings to make oil-absorbing booms? Boycott BP stations? The best and most effective way to help, according to experts is to decrease our use of oil – reducing overall demand for fossil fuels. The disconnect between oil and its impact on health and the environment is widening, even during the biggest oil disaster in US history. Many don’t realize that Massachusetts has an anti-idling law: MGL, Chapter 90, 16A and 310 CMR, 7.11, which defines limitations and imposes fines.

A quick and easy way to reduce oil consumption is not to idle vehicles unnecessarily. Car exhaust has several environmental and health implications. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides emitted from tail pipes greatly contribute to smog formation, air pollution and is the major leading cause of asthma and other undesirable health effects. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing pulmonary conditions are especially vulnerable as their lungs are more sensitive. Idling is also incredibly wasteful, and amidst a continuing recession its ceasement provides for a quick way to save money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if 145 million passenger vehicles idle for just 5 minutes a day, approximately 4 million gallons of gasoline are consumed. Or put another way – idling 10 minutes per day uses an average of 26 gallons per year, costing you $56 annually. Businesses, municipalities, schools as well a individuals can all help to end unnecessary idling, save money and improve air quality.

When not to idle? Pretty much anytime you’re not driving. Delivering a package? Waiting for your children at the bus stop or camp? Then turn your car engine off. To keep your car cool in the summer, park in the shade and leave your windows cracked to let in a breeze. Utilize the already air-conditioned supermarket when waiting for your spouse to shop. You can also visit for more info and helpful tips. Reducing the amount of car exhaust emitted into the atmosphere will ensure that we all have clean air to breathe, depend less on oil and save money.

How has anti-idling helped your bottom line? Is it a large component of your sustainability strategy? How do you monitor and report its compliance?

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 11, 2010 1:23 pm

    Great article Joanna! Note that if you are idling for more than 30 seconds, be sure to shut your car off.

    The California Energy Commission said that 10 seconds of idling wastes more gas than restarting an engine. That’s because nearly all of today’s cars are fuel-injected, so turn the key off with confidence.

    For more about idling myths, see the Commission’s Consumer Energy Center Idling Myths page at

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