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Courier exposed to exhaust fumes
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Courier exposed to exhaust fumes

I have been a courier for a dental lab for 4 years now. I drive approx 8 hours a day 5 days a week in the LA area. I drive with my windows down (I have no air conditioning)..  I notice that during the day I get what can be described as "whiffs" of exhaust fumes from trucks, old cars and whatever else. I am hoping that having the windows down will give me some kind of ventilation.
I am wondering is it possible to determine what kind of risk I am putting myself at from car and truck exhaust fumes in regular everyday traffic going on 4 years?  I am thinking about leaving the job because of the fumes.
I am 42 years old and a non-smoker.
Is the risk great enough to warrant any kind of future chest ct scans while feeling okay?
Thanks for any feedback
Mike
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Avatar_dr_m_tn
Dear Mike:

There is no definitive evidence in the medical and scientific literature that would support you having periodic surveillance chest CT scans in the future because of your exposure to automobile exhaust and air pollution. In fact the risk of the radiation from repeated chest CT scans would outweigh the potential benefits.

Repeated CT scans are also not without risk. Currently the radiation that one is exposed to after one CT is equal to the radiation from many chest x-rays. The effective dose of a CT is around 100-200 mrem. How does this compare to a chest x ray? The effective dose from a single chest x-ray is around 5-10 mrem.

That being said, there is much on-going research that aims to investigate the possible association of air pollution and different types of cancer.

Here is an abstract from an article from this year that illustrates on-going research:
"There is growing concern that air pollution exposure increases the risk of lung cancer. The mechanism of action is related to particle-induced oxidative stress and oxidation of DNA. Humans exposed to urban air with vehicle emissions have elevated levels of oxidized guanine bases in blood cells and urine. Animal experimental studies show that pulmonary and gastrointestinal exposure is associated with elevated levels of oxidized guanines in the lung and other organs. Collectively, there is evidence indicating that exposure to traffic-related air pollution particles is associated with oxidative damage to DNA and this might be associated with increased risk of cancer."

- Møller P, Folkmann JK, Forchhammer L, Bräuner EV, Danielsen PH, Risom L, Loft S. Air pollution, oxidative damage to DNA, and carcinogenesis. Cancer Letters. 2008 Mar 24 [Epub ahead of print].

Also, here is a link to a story in the popular media that discusses the risks of CT scans: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/08/31/health/webmd/main639707.shtml.

I hope this is helpful to you.

~•~ Dr. Parks

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
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Philip D Parks, MD, MPH, MOccH, F...Blank
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