Is That ‘New Car Smell’ Toxic?

brand new car

 That “new car smell” may come from toxic chemicals, according to new research.

A new study suggests that new car smell comes from toxic chemicals off-gassing in a car’s interior, like brominated flame retardants (BFRs), chromium, and lead. In all, researchers identified more than 275 different chemicals in vehicle interiors, including those associated with birth defects, impaired learning, liver problems, and cancer.

The 2012 new vehicle study from the nonprofit Ecology Center analyzed the chemical content of more than 200 new cars for its top 10 healthy and unhealthy car interiors. The higher the vehicle rating in the study, the higher the level of these chemicals was, based on their testing methods.

At the top of the list for the most healthy car interior is the 2012 Honda Civic. Researchers say it earned strong marks for not having any bromine-based flame retardants, while boasting polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free interior fabrics and trim, and low levels of heavy metals.

At the bottom of the list are the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and 2011 Chrysler 200 SC, which both had scores in the “high” range. For example, the Mitsubishi Outlander had bromine and antimony-based flame retardants in seating and other areas, chromium-treated leather, and lead in seating materials.


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