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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Idle Hands & Idling Engines: Are They the Devil’s Workshop?

Mar 29, 2018 08:41PM ● By Beth Gorman

According to my grandmother, being idle can get you into trouble. Idling your vehicle can also be trouble for children, people with lung and heart disease and the vehicle itself. Not only does engine idling waste gasoline and put pollution into the air we all breathe, but it can also damage cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system. We don’t often think about the pollution our vehicle is emitting because most of it is invisible. However, just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Here are some facts to ponder.

Idling vehicles produce thousands of tons of toxic pollution annually.

• Elevated levels of air toxins were found at schools during times when parents were waiting in parking lots for their children.

• Idling 10 seconds or more uses more fuel and emits more greenhouse gases than restarting the engine.

• Vehicles warm up faster when driving than when idling. Drive slowly at first and avoid revving the engine.

Next time you are picking up a child at school or going to the bank, fast food restaurant or pharmacy, consider parking and walking inside instead of using the drive-through. If we try to drive less and reduce time spent idling our engines, the impact on air quality and health can be significant. Healthy air is in our hands.

Beth Gorman is Senior Program Manager at the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality. Connect at 520-724-7446 or

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