New car smell could be making you ill

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New Car Smell

The new car smell could be making you sick. Image: Flickr / notionscapital / CC-BY-SA

On average, Americans spend an hour and a half of each day in their vehicle. According to a new study, spending that time in a new vehicle could be toxic.

What makes up a new car smell

The “new car smell” is a smell that most of us are familiar with, and a big part of the sales pitch for a new car. A study by, however, found that many of the elements of that new car smell are actually toxic. The smell is created when chemicals gas off of the materials placed inside the vehicle. Plastic, carpet, anti-microbial sprays, flame retardants, and even air fresheners are all used in constructing a new vehicle. All of these materials are then enclosed in the vehicle, which means everything that gasses off is then trapped in the vehicle, where temperatures can exceed 240 degrees Fahrenheit, which increases the density of toxic volatile organic compounds trapped in the vehicle.

Toxic chemicals in a car

The average new vehicle on an automotive lot has more than 275 chemicals in the interior. Many of these chemicals are considered very toxic or are considered volatile organic compounds, VOCs, which are also known as indoor air pollution. PVC is widely used in manufacturing vehicles, which uses many materials that are considered “likely carcinogens.” Though many of the fumes that are off-gassing in vehicles contain chemicals that are known to affect health, there is no mandatory testing or even regulation of those chemicals in vehicles. In short, the chemicals that combine to create a new car smell could very likely be dangerous to human health and are not regulated.

Better and worse options

There are vehicles that have better or worse interior environments at the time of purchase. The rankings that creates are based on the chemicals in a vehicle’s interior environment at the time of purchase, the materials used in construction, and the use of PVC-free alternatives. The vehicle with the best-rated interior environment is the 2012 Honda Civic, though the Toyota Prius, Honda CR-Z and Nissan cube were all rated very well. The three vehicles with the worst interior air rankings were the Kia Soul, Chrysler 200 SC, and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

[The Scion Atlanta dealership has vehicles with great rankings.]

NBC Chicago

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