Do Toyota Prius Hybrids Cause Cancer? [sigh] No, They Don't.

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cigarettes, taken by Flickr user Schnella Schnyder

cigarettes, taken by Flickr user Schnella Schnyder

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Auto "influencers" are the people you ask whenever you have a car question. By virtue of editing and other High Gear Media sites, we're known as sort of a de facto influencer. And so we get some of the most random questions you can imagine.

The latest was from the mother of a High Gear executive. She owns a Toyota Prius, and likes it. But she'd "seen something somewhere" about how her Prius causes cancer. So guess where the question landed?

Strangely, we'd chatted earlier in the week with another auto editor, from a very well-respected publication, about the persistence of "Prius cancer rumors".

It seems, people "hear," that the electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted by various electrical equipment in Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system have been "proven" to "cause cancer".

Sounded like an urban myth to us. Short answer: It is.

Conclusion: The Toyota Prius does not cause cancer.

There's relatively little public data on in-car EMF levels. But our editor friend knew of an independent test of those EMF levels in a cross-section of cars and other vehicles.

That study, not yet published, showed absolutely no difference between the Toyota Prius, or indeed any hybrid, and conventional gasoline powered cars. Moreover, it showed that the levels inside cars barely differed from the standard background levels we're all exposed to from living in an electrically-powered society.

(We will add a link to that test in this article when it is published.)

Still, the topic of EMF radiation is fraught with FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Power lines, commuter trains, various electronic appliances, and a number of other modern-day conveniences have all been accused of "causing cancer" at various times.

So let us stress: NO reliable, verifiable, repeatable, peer-reviewed data has EVER been presented that "proves" or even "indicates" that incidental EMF radiation "causes" cancer, or even raises its incidence or severity.

The caveat here is that certain workplaces (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, chambers) may have EMF levels thousands of times higher than the incidental levels. Those are different, although even there, there's a paucity of conclusive data.

It's worth noting that modern epidemiology is notoriously hard to prove. But EMF panics have been going on for 40-plus years, and no one's succeeded in showing anything of medical note.

Except, that is, that people often get scared and even hysterical about things they don't understand. That may have been evolutionarily advantageous, but it sure causes problems in a fast-moving modern society to which we have not genetically adapted very well.

As we told the executive in question: If it helps soothe your mother, we put our ma in a brand-new 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid. Whose battery pack is the same size as that of a Toyota Prius. And we wouldn't have done that if we were even the teensiest bit worried.

The professor will be available after class for further questions.

2010 Toyota Prius

2010 Toyota Prius

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[The New York Times via Autoblog Green; cigarette photo by Flickr user Schnella Schnyder]

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Comments (6)
  1. I just took delivery of my 2010 Prius. Many super features as shown at the Toronto autoshow. But where to put the garbage? My little "tunnel" bin has nowhere to go in this car, at least in front. Any suggestions?

  2. Any chance of posting a link to the study mentioned? You make some strong claims without any evidence. While I agree that it is hard to prove that EMF's are definitely harmful, there are in fact peer reviewed, scientific, repeatable studies that find correlations between adverse health effects such as childhood leukemia (reported for kids exposed to greater than 4 milliGauss) and Lou Gehrig's disease in some electrical workers. These are correlations, and the causes are not clear. What is needed is more data, not blanket statements like
    "So let us stress: NO reliable, verifiable, repeatable, peer-reviewed data has EVER been presented that "proves" or even "indicates" that incidental EMF radiation "causes" cancer, or even raises its incidence or severity."
    See below link for leukemia info:

  3. they are very good and useful!!!

  4. I'm planning buy a prius, but a friend just told me about the radiation thing. I'm worried because my child is on the way. I don't want him to be harmed. This article sounds good, but as mentioned by other commentor, if there is any data to show the radiation level is not higher, it would be much more convincing.

  5. When I drive a Prius I do not feel the same as if I am driving a non-hybrid car. It feels as if there is just high voltage around me. I get a headache after a few hours of driving and get very tired when leaving the car. Regular cars don't do that.

  6. This is bull. The New York Times is leftist propaganda. This would be like claiming fracking causes no harm, and then having the source be fox

Commenting is closed for old articles.

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