The “new car smell” is caused by chemicals linked to cancer, research shows
A new car’s beloved smell is caused by cancer-causing chemicals, a study finds.
A cocktail of leather and plastic creates a petrol-like smell that intensifies in the heat – due to an increase in the energy available to odor-causing molecules.
Sitting in a car for just 30 minutes each day 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 automaker Ford has even started trying to remove the smell, following complaints from Chinese customers who didn’t like the smell.
Researchers from Harvard University and the Beijing Institute of Technology tracked the concentration of 20 common chemicals in new cars and estimated the amounts ingested by inhalation, ingestion and absorption through the skin
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 has been categorized as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with research showing an increased incidence of nasal tumors in rats after inhalation of the substance.
Researchers from Harvard University and the Beijing Institute of Technology tracked the concentration of 20 common airborne chemicals in new cars as they were parked outside for 12 consecutive days.
They estimated intake by inhalation, ingestion and dermal absorption, finding ‘there is a high health risk for drivers’.
The scientists found that levels of the chemicals exceeded China’s national safety standard for air quality in cars.
The amount of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, was 35 percent over 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 physicsreflects results of similar research in 2021.
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside found that the carcinogens benzene and formaldehyde exceeded safe levels during car trips as short as 20 minutes.
The chemicals are also produced by the combustion of fuel.
In 2018, automaker Ford said it wanted to remove the “new car smell” from its vehicles after receiving complaints from Chinese customers who disliked the smell.
Ford has filed a patent application for an odor removal process. Ford’s solution was to eliminate the smell by parking the car in the sun, rolling down the windows and turning on 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 secure and seal car parts can also contribute to the odor.