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Parked Cars Heat Up Faster Than Thought

Study shows they can get dangerously hot inside in no time

TUESDAY, July 5, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Even on somewhat cool days, parked cars with rolled up windows can get dangerously hot inside if the sun is out, according to a Stanford University School of Medicine study.

The Stanford researchers say their findings dispel the notion that it's safe to leave children or pets in parked cars during mild weather.

"There are cases of children dying on days as cool as 70 degrees Fahrenheit," study lead author Dr. Catherine McLaren, clinical instructor in emergency medicine, said in a prepared statement.

She and her colleagues measured the temperature inside a parked car on sunny days when temperatures were at highs ranging from 72 to 96 degrees F. They found that the car's interior could heat up by an average of 40 degrees F within an hour, no matter what the ambient temperature.

The study found that 80 percent of the temperature increase inside the car occurred within the first half hour.

"On a cool day, you don't feel hot, so you believe it will be OK. But ambient temperature doesn't matter; it's whether it's sunny out," study co-author Dr. James Quinn, associate professor of emergency medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Running the air conditioning before parking the car or leaving a window slightly open won't help prevent the car's interior from heating up to dangerous temperatures, the researchers noted.

They found that running the air conditioning before parking the car only delayed the temperature spike inside the car by about five minutes. A slightly open window had little effect on both the rate of heating and the final temperature inside the car after an hour in the sun.

The research appears in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.

More Information

Kids in Cars has more about the dangerously high temperatures in parked cars.

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, July 5, 2005
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