New car smell could be toxic, some cars more offensive than others

February 16, 2012 12:00 AM

Many drivers take pleasure in the scent of a new car, but a recent report published by researchers at the Ecology Center indicates that which smells sweet may in fact be dangerous. The study analyzed the chemicals that are released into the air by interior parts such as the steering wheel, seats and dashboard in more than 200 vehicles from the 2011 and 2012 model years.

"Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces," said Jeff Gearheart, the Ecology Center research director. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose the dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives."

The reason this chemical danger lurks in a new vehicle's odor has a lot to do with temperature. The interior of a car can reach extremely high temperatures, which may increase the amount of toxins leaking into the air. Some cars are worse offenders than others, as the Honda Civic was found to have the least-toxic new car smell, while the Mitsubishi Outlander was the most dangerous.

This information may make some drivers think twice about asking for the new car scented air freshener next time they bring their car to the mechanic for a tire alignment or other auto maintenance.

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