The “new car smell / scent” is a distinctive and special smell that many people find pleasant and exciting. However, that smell may be a result of the many hazardous chemicals used in the manufacturing of automobiles. Several of these harmful and toxic substances are carcinogens, while others have some truly serious side effects.
Phthalates is commonly used to soften plastics in the interior of the cars. This toxic substance has been found present in levels that are known to be harmful to the occupants. Another toxic chemical, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), is used as a flame retardant and is found in the car seats, carpeting, and dashboard. PBDEs accumulate in the blood, fatty tissues, and breast milk. Both of these are known carcinogens.
Asbestos, a very dangerous (mesothelioma) cancer-causing substance, is found in high concentration in older cars. Exposure poses a risk to those who fix cars for work or hobby, such as muscle car enthusiasts. In addition, vehicles that are manufactured even today contain asbestos in the brakes, gaskets, pads, and clutch. It has also been found present in hood liners in the interior of the car. Exposure to asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer.
Toxic substances found in vehicles also cause liver toxicity and delayed development in children. It may also cause birth defects because of the potential to accumulate in the blood stream and breast milk. Neurotoxic symptoms and mucus membrane irritation can be caused by other chemicals found to be present, such as acetone, benzene, and toluene.
The occupants inhale the toxins when the car’s surfaces heat up. Parking in direct sunlight, leaving the windows closed, and not using a sun shade all heat the car up enough to release the chemicals. Mechanics and do-it-yourself repairers come into contact with the asbestos when performing maintenance and risk developing mesothelioma.
New government regulations are being put into place to limit the amount of toxic substances used to manufacture vehicles. Some companies, such as Honda, have initiated reducing the amounts even below current laws. When purchasing a new car, ask the dealer for the disclosure of chemicals used in the car. Check the amounts used and compare that the levels of toxicity. This is the best way to reduce exposure to toxins in vehicles.