Everyone knows that cars are a major source of air pollution. But most people don't know that it isn't only what comes out of tailpipe that’s the problem, but what's inside cars as well.
While the new car smell is a cultural icon and a source of pride when showing off a new car, results of recent studies indicate that levels of airborne chemicals in new car interiors are significantly higher than is recommended for today’s indoor environment. Moreover, the Ecological Center of Michigan in the United States recently conducted a study on air quality within 900 vehicles pointing the toxic level of each element present inside cars.
Chemical Hazards in Vehicles
Indoor air pollution in homes and offices has been studied extensively in recent years with sometimes alarming conclusions that have led the building industry to rethink many aspects of design and choice of materials. But the health hazards lurking inside car interiors have largely escaped scrutiny. Indeed the "new car smell" is actually the smell of toxic chemicals off-gassing from interior auto parts such as the seating, dashboards and vehicle trim.
Many synthetic materials and plastics are produced with chemical additives that are used to change th performance of the plastics. Due to these additives, many pollutants, including benzene, toluene and xylene, were found in levels exceeding indoor air quality standards.
As with other types of indoor environments, materials and products used in car interiors frequently have organic compounds as a part of their composition. Cleaning products and processes used in cars also contain compounds that can emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).These materials later can be a significant source of VOC emissions. Extreme temperatures can also increase the concentration of VOCs which can be harmful to human health.
New Guide 2012 to Toxic Chemicals in Cars
The study published by HealthyStuff helps consumers avoid "New Car Smell" as major source of Indoor Air Pollution.
Immediately after delivery, new vehicles have been found to be universally contaminated with very high concentrations of a large number of chemicals that diffuse from interior vehicle materials. Over 275 different chemicals have been identified in vehicles interiors, including chemicals associate with birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer. Automobiles are unique and harsh environments for plastics.
"Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose those dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives."
While fuel economy is important, the public in increasingly concerned about chemical hazards in consumer products. There is no mandatory testing or regulation of chemicals used inside vehicles. Thus, consumers face a lack of information while they are car shopping and long-term exposure even to small amounts of pollutants can adversely impact health.