Healthy living

Car exhaust – reduce idling to protect your health

  • Car emissions release air pollutants that can impact your child's physical health 
  • 30 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine
  • Turn your engine off if you anticipate being stopped for more than 30 seconds

Air toxins are pollutants known to cause serious health problems such as asthma. Vehicle exhaust is a major source of air pollution.

By reducing car idling, the potential of lung irritation and inflammation can be reduced, therefore potentially reducing the risk of developing asthma and other exhaust-related health problems. 

Children are especially sensitive because their lungs are still developing, and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.

What is in car exhaust fumes?

Multiple studies link vehicle exhaust to increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease, and asthma.

  • Fine particle pollution which can cause coughing, wheezing, and decrease lung function in otherwise healthy children and adults.
  • Chemicals that produce smog which worsens asthma and other breathing problems. Smog is air pollution that reduces visibility.
  • Benzene which is known to cause cancer.

Just by turning off your engine, for example when arriving at school to pick up your child/children, you can decrease the amount of emissions to which children, as well as you, are exposed to.

Facts about car idling

  • 30 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine
  • restarting a car more frequently has little impact on the battery and starter motor
  • excessive idling is hard on your engine, contaminates engine oil and makes spark plugs dirty
  • exhaust levels are higher inside an idling car than outside.

Turning off your engine and reducing your idling time can:

  • decrease the amount of emissions to which your children, as well as you, are exposed to
  • you can help save fuel and money
  • reduce pollution
  • protect children from harmful pollutants contained in car exhaust – making everyone healthier.
How can I reduce car idling time?
  1. Turn off the engine if you anticipate being stopped for 30 seconds or more, except in traffic.
  2. Do not idle to warm up your engine – modern engines do not require any warm-up idling.
  3. Spread the word to family, friends, neighbours and schools.
  4. Visit Your Move (external site) to find out about using alternatives or ‘active travel’ which is also a great way to make family fitness part of your daily routine. These could be:
  • walking or riding a bicycle or scooter, can help reduce traffic and vehicle emissions around school
  • car pooling with other families
  • catching the bus.

Public transport information is available via the Transperth Info Line on (13 62 13) and website (external site).


Curtin University
WA Health, Environmental Health Directorate Chemical Hazards