New Car SmellCan Be Toxic

A Michigan-based ecology group released a report this month that so-called ‘new car smell’ contains two toxic chemicals for drivers and passengers. The study called for tougher regulations to phase out the use of the chemicals, and also suggested that car owners take steps to reduce the release and breakdown of these chemicals by using solar reflectors, ventilating car interiors, and parking outside of sunlight whenever possible.

4 thoughts on “New Car SmellCan Be Toxic

  1. mebow April 15, 2006 / 4:28 pm

    Our new car is making me ill. I thought it was car sickness but suspected a chemical reaction as I've heard of this happening years ago, (it was remedied by the extreme solution – replacing all plastic seat covering inside the car). I noted Anna's comments and wonder if there are other ways – ie washing the surfaces or treating them in some way. Does the chemical effect wear off? Has anyone further ideas please? Is it possible for me to obtain a copy of the Michigan report Anna mentions? I'm due to go on a long trip in the car in a couple of days and I'm a bit nervous. I've never suffered from severe allergies of any kind.

  2. Anonymous April 17, 2006 / 9:59 am

    Hi Margaret,

    I'm sorry to hear that your car is making you ill and that you had to go to such extreme measures to try and find a remedy.

    To answer your questions: Yes, the chemical effect does wear off, typically after about six to eight months. That new car smell” comes from many different chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs.

    VOCs emanate from glues, paints, vinyls, and plastics inside new cars. They can trigger headaches, sore throats, nausea, and drowsiness. (Isn't it ironic that you can buy a scented spray that mimics this odor?) When your car's interior gets hot, even more VOCs escape into the air. That's why Anna suggested using solar reflectors and parking outside of sunlight whenever possible.

    Good ventilation is the key to avoiding VOC illness, especially on a warm day. Your best defense is letting in fresh air by opening doors, rolling down windows, and running the air conditioning.

    Japanese automobile manufacturers have become the first to set goals for reducing VOCs in new cars. You can read the story in this USA Today article.

    For a more scientific look at VOCs, read this Chemical & Engineering News article.

    And here is the Michigan-based Ecology Center report referenced in the original post.

    From what I understand, washing or treating the interior surfaces would not help. Purifying the air in your car, however, would definitely help. I am currently working on adding a portable air purifier to our inventory here at achoo! ALLERGY. (Be sure to check next month's achoo! Review newsletter.) In the meantime, I suggest you try our Odor Eliminator: it's all-natural, effective, and less than $10.

    The real solution to the problem of toxic VOCs is in the hands of automakers. Hopefully more countries will follow Japan's lead, and in a few years, maybe new cars won't have that “new car smell” anymore. But at least we'll still have the scented spray to remind us!

    I hope your car trip turns out to be a happy and healthy one. If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask. width=”0″<"

  3. hobie May 5, 2006 / 7:50 pm

    I have recently encountered the same problem with a new car. I noticed the first few times I drove the car for more than 15 minutes at a time that I would get a strange, chemical taste in my mouth. The taste would persist until after I had been out of the car for around 20-30 minutes. I also noticed periodic light-headedness and stomach butterflies, but wasn't sure it was the car. I suspected I was absorbing something toxic, and started doing research. That is when I came across the January 2006 report, Toxic At Any Speed”. I have since then been on the phone with both the testing company and the publishers of the report. We are currently trying to return the car after having it only 3 weeks, but it looks like we are going to eat a chunk of change…”

  4. Anonymous May 10, 2006 / 1:15 pm

    Hi, hobie. I'm sorry about your reaction to your new car. But maybe you won't have to eat a chunk of change afterall.

    We've been hearing more and more about VOC sickness from our customers, and so we set out to find a solution.

    Please see our May achoo! Review newsletter (it just came out today), which contains an article about VOCs along with a new product introduction for a portable HEPA Air Purifier with an activated carbon VOC filter. The Auto Adapter Kit will allow you to use the filter in your car to remove harmful VOCs and get rid of that chemical taste in your mouth.”

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