Cars in Australia and the US: Is the New Car Smell Bad for your Health?

Of course we all remember the article, a little while back now, about how: Dr Geoffrey Evens Suffers with MCS-like Symptoms with New Cars? Evens, the Research Scientist who bought a new car that set of his formaldehyde allergy he picked up while working in a laboratory for years. Well, the gist of this story is long-winded, something that’s not going away fast, for many of us.

In ‘How toxic is your new car?‘ by Building Biologist and author of Healthy Home Healthy Family, Nicole Bijlsma, answers to some of our questions are put forward:

Ever wondered what that new car smell was doing to your health?

Well if you drive a Honda Civic or CR-Z or Toyota Prius you can breathe easy as they were rated the healthiest. If however you recently purchased a Mitsubishi Outlander or Chrysler (family cars) consider wearing a respirator and tyvek suit – they were the worst. A study conducted by consumer advocate HealthyStuff.org (US) investigated the pollution in cars. There are over 275 different chemicals in the interiors of new cars many of which are associated with birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer (HealthyStuff.org, 2012). Cars were assessed for a variety of toxins including PVC (hormone disrupting chemical), heavy metals such as lead (behavioural disorders) and cadmium (carcinogenic) and brominated flame retardants.

You can Read more here

In Is the New Car Smell Bad for your Health?, written by Jim Travers and published by BBC Autos, the article is ripe with helpful information for consumers:

“There are over 200 chemical compounds found in vehicles,” he said. “Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face.”

Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. 

Just reading a list of the substances is scary enough, and makes your car’s interior sound like a hazmat hall of fame. Benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and heavy metals are all part of the mix. And the danger of exposure is scarier still. Immediate symptoms can range from a sore throat to headaches, dizziness, allergic reactions and nausea, depending on the sensitivity of an individual.

For people already sensitive to formaldehyde and other chemicals, choosing a car can be difficult, especially if the fragrance used in most 2nd hand cars puts many of them out of reach. However, there is great news from BBC Auto when it comes to buying new cars:

Automakers we spoke with, including Fiat/ChryslerFordGeneral Motors and Honda all say they’ve taken steps to reduce VOC levels in their vehicles, along with other substances of concern (SOCs). They say they’ve accomplished this primarily by using different materials, coatings and adhesives in manufacturing, and all say they are continuing to look for ways to reduce the use of potentially harmful substances in their cars.

One known carcinogen that seems to be on the way out is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which the Ecology Center found was used in virtually all new car interiors in 2006. By 2012, that number was down to 73%. Manufacturers say PVC use continues to decline, and Honda, for one, claims to have eliminated it entirely from interiors of most models.

Other companies like Ford are trying out alternatives like soy padding used in the seats. However, while Australia and the US lag behind the European Union’s REACH program (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and restriction of CHemical substances), designed to protect consumers from harmful chemical irritants, allergens and toxic chemicals, the BBC suggests:

” … the best thing that buyers can do to limit exposure is to keep car interiors well ventilated, especially during the first six months of ownership. Park in the shade with the windows open when it’s safe to do so, or at least try to air it out before getting inside — especially on hot days.

Avoid sitting in the car while it is parked, and use a windshield solar shade to minimize heat buildup. The Ecology Center also advises frequent passes with a microfiber towel and a non-toxic cleaner, especially when a vehicle is new. “Chemicals like to hang out in the dust,” said Gearhart.

And for those who are especially sensitive to chemicals, he suggests making an extended sit behind the wheel part of the test drive, to see if symptoms or irritation start to develop.

“Spend time in the vehicle before purchasing it,” said Gearhart. “Or even consider buying a used car.”

More

The New Ecology Center guide to toxic chemicals in cars helps consumers avoid a major source of indoor air pollution. Honda rated the best again due to reductions in PVCs.

Nicole Bijlsma: How Toxic is Your Car

Jim Travers, BBC Autos: Is the New Car Smell Bad for your Health?

This report contains vehicle screening as well as historic test results for nearly 1,000 vehicles: 2011/2012 Guide to New Vehicles

In the US: SaferCar.gov is the NHTSA site where you can identify and report problems you might be having with your vehicle, tires, equipment or car seats

The New Ecology Center guide to toxic chemicals in cars helps consumers avoid a major source of indoor air pollution

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

About Michellina van Loder

Comments

  1. Fabulous article, and your great research. I have a VW Tiguan and it is really good mostly leather interior and a filter which is changed at service, it has been really good. I place towels on seats, with button around back of headrest, then I can launder them, as the horrific frag/chem gets picked up on clothing/hair etc. Only non frag loved ones allowed to travel in my VW :-)

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      Thank you for sharing this information about your car. It’s funny because I test drove some VWs a while back and also found them to be pretty good in that I was okay afterwards. However, when I attempted to drive a new Suburu, I couldn’t even get in the car such was the stench or artificial rubber emanating from the car. These chemicals made me so sick the day. I was disappointed because my vehicle is a suburb and is great for camping in; or at least it was until it got water damaged in a hail storm. Can you sleep in the back of your car? One thing I loved about the VW Tiguan is that they had plastic buckets for the back area so dogs can go in the car without ruining the upholstery. Wonder if they have vegan options for the seating?

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
Translate »