Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Don't Let Half-Truths Spoil Your April 1

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Don't Let Half-Truths Spoil Your April 1

Article excerpt

With parked cars now heating up in the spring sun, doomsayers are filling my mailbox with dire warnings about benzene, the toxin that thrives on heat and allegedly bursts into cancerous fury each time we trigger our dashboard air-conditioner switches.

"Tell readers to open their windows" and allow time for fumes to escape before turning on air conditioners so they don't inhale these carcinogens, pleaded know-it-alls from Hawthorne, Fort Lee and beyond.

So, consider yourself warned.

But on this April Fools' Day, consider, too, that most of a car's benzene is in the fuel in its tank, not in your sun-baked seats and dashboard, according to a definitive 2001 Korean study. Older cars were shown to contain less of it than newer models, and exposure was greatest in winter when no one -- not even a know-it-all -- uses air conditioning.

Some shrill pronouncements are barely half true. What better day than April 1 to explode half-truths contributed by readers? Here are a few more:

Q. Signs at pumps say cellphones can cause explosions, yet gas station attendants text while pumping. What's going on? S.S., Morris Plains

Explosions at pumps are rarely, if ever, traced to electronic devices. But explosions remain a remote threat. That's why the American Petroleum Institute suggests signs. Perhaps there's an equally remote chance that attendants might read them, too.

Q. Since attendants ignore customers, why can't we simply pump our own gas? D.C., Wayne

As you know, it's illegal, and polls show New Jerseyans like it that way. But you can get around the law with a diesel-powered car. Because of its lower flash point, diesel is safer than gas.

Q. Why don't you condemn the burdensome $50 administrative fee that the New Jersey Turnpike charges cash customers in addition to missed tolls when we can't find enough quarters at an unstaffed booth? …

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