Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sweating it out in a metal box

Experiment highlights danger of hot vehicle

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When I get into a hot car in the summer, the few seconds it takes to roll down the windows, start the engine and get air flowing seems like an eternity.

I'll often feel a few beads of perspiration coming down the side of my face.

So, if I find that unbearable, imagine how young kids -- usually strapped into their car seats -- and pets feel when they're left inside what is effectively a metal box while the adults in their lives run in to do an errand.

"I'll be back in a minute" is never an accurate statement.

Sometimes there's a lineup in the store, or you'll run into an old friend and one minute can quickly -- or slowly, depending on where you are -- turn into 10 or 20 minutes.

All too often, there are tragic consequences.

To illustrate the conditions inside a vehicle at this time of year, we bought a digital thermometer, put a microphone on me and in I got.

It was already hot outside, but inside the car, the air was heavy. The temperature was 32 C. I cracked the windows an inch or two to simulate what many people believe is sufficient to generate enough air flow to make things comfortable.

Research finding: This is a crock. Unless you have your head at the same height as the window, there is absolutely no air circulation. I shudder to think of the heat in cars where people don't even crack the windows.

Even though I can see tree branches blowing in the breeze, it feels like I'm watching it on television.

After five minutes, the temperature has hit 36 C and I can feel beads of sweat forming at my temples.

At 10 minutes, I know what a piece of pottery feels like in a kiln. The temperature is rising nearly one degree per minute. It feels considerably hotter when I peek out the front windshield and the sun shines directly on my face.

At 20 minutes, it feels like I'm inside a steam room and any deep breath makes my lungs hurt.

By 25 minutes, I can't keep the sweat out of my eyes, I'm drenched and the temperature has topped 50 C. I've never been to the surface of the sun, but I imagine this is sort of what it would feel like.

Figuring the point has been made, I get out of the car. Stepping into what I considered stifling just a half-hour earlier, now feels like walking into a meat freezer. A little light-headed, I chug a glass of water. What I really need is a pool.

Please, do not try this at home -- or worse, in a shopping-mall parking lot.

 

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 A5

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Updated on Friday, July 5, 2013 at 6:53 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds videos

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