Many people may enjoy the new car smell, but scientists have been investigating whether it can harm your health.
A new study published in Environment International found that new car drivers may be inhaling dangerous amounts of carcinogenic particles. Some of those particles are responsible for the particular new car smell.
Off-gassing is a way for the materials to finish processing and remove the trapped excess gases, which produces a new car smell. Some chemical adhesives have strong fumes that take days or weeks to finish off-gassing.
These materials include volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
When our noses pick up these chemicals, they register in our brains as a pleasant scent. But unfortunately, those identical particles can wreak havoc once inside the human body.
Among the particles emitted by new car materials are benzene and formaldehyde. Both are carcinogenic compounds, meaning they can cause cancer.
What is the ‘New Car Smell’?
The “new car smell” is a combination of various odors emanating from different car components, including the upholstery, dashboard, carpets, and other materials. These components are made from a variety of materials, such as plastics, adhesives, synthetic fabrics, and leather, which release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
The most notable VOCs contributing to the new car smell are benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. These compounds have a sweet, slightly chemical smell and are often associated with the new car scent. However, prolonged exposure to these VOCs can harm human health and cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and respiratory problems.
While the smell is not necessarily dangerous, it is recommended to ventilate the car well when first purchasing it to minimize exposure to the VOCs contributing to the new car smell. Car manufacturers are working to reduce the amount of VOCs in their vehicles.
Here’s Why They Say It’s Dangerous
“These chemicals are very volatile, moving easily from plastics and textiles to the air that you breathe,” the study’s co-author David Volz, a professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California Riverside, told EurekAlert.
The simplest way to reduce potential exposure to these chemicals is to keep the interior ventilated. Park the vehicle in the garage and leave the windows down if possible.
You can also try different odor-control agents like white vinegar and a box of baking soda. Having a professional detailing company clean your car during the first few months can also help you get rid of the smell. Running a rag over the interior surfaces will help keep your vehicle free of dust which can hold onto VOCs.