The ‘new car smell’ is caused by chemicals linked to cancer, study finds
The much-loved smell of a new car is caused by cancer-causing chemicals, a study finds.
A cocktail of leather and plastics creates a gasoline-like odor which becomes more intense in the heat — due to an increase in energy available to odor-causing molecules.
Sitting for just 30 minutes every day in a car exposes you to dangerous levels of carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
These chemicals are linked to myeloid leukemia and rare cancers such as in the nose.
Leading US car manufacturer Ford even started the process of trying to remove the smell, following complaints from Chinese customers who disliked the odor.
Researchers at Harvard University and the Beijing Institute of Technology monitored the concentration of 20 common chemicals inside new cars and estimated the amounts taken in by inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption
The new car smell is caused by volatile organic compounds given off by leather, plastic and vinyl
Both formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are used to make car interiors.
Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of formaldehyde can cause myeloid leukemia and rare cancers such as in the paranasal sinuses, nasal cavity and nasopharynx.
Acetaldehyde is categorized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen, with research showing increased incidence of nasal tumors in rats following inhalation of the substance.
Researchers at Harvard University and the Beijing Institute of Technology monitored the concentration of 20 common chemicals in the air inside new cars while they were left parked outside for 12 days in a row.
They estimated the uptake through inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption, and found ‘there is a high health risk for drivers’.
The scientists found that the levels of the chemicals surpassed China’s national safety standard for air quality in cars.
The amount of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, was 35 percent above the limit.
Acetaldehyde, another possible cancer-causing chemical, was 61 percent higher than the national standard.
The car air study, published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, echoes results from similar research in 2021.
University of California, Riverside researchers found that carcinogens benzene and formaldehyde breached safe levels during car commutes as short as 20 minutes.
The chemicals are also produced by the burning of fuel.
In 2018, car manufacturer Ford said it wanted to eliminate the ‘new car smell’ from its vehicles after it received complaints from Chinese customers who disliked the scent.
Ford filed a patent application for an odor-removal process. Ford’s solution was to bake the smell out by parking the car in the sun, rolling down the windows and firing up the engine, heater and fan until the smell is gone.
The famous smell is caused by volatile organic compounds given off by leather, plastic and vinyl.
Chemicals used to attach and seal car parts may also contribute to the odor.