That new car smell may come at a price

That new car smell may come at a price

Stepping into a brand-new vehicle is a palpable feeling. The engine hums, the sleek dashboard design sparkles, and the classic “new car” smell that’s synonymous with a pristine set of wheels permeates the interior.

However, a recent study states the distinct aroma is a byproduct of flame retardants found in leather, adhesives and plastic. Experts warn that the cocktail of synthetic products can be hazardous to your health.

According to the report, chemicals polluting the cabin’s air quality include acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and benzene. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has linked these chemicals to an increased risk of cancer and respiratory illnesses.

“Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are everywhere; a lot of factors are at play into whether or not someone may develop a severe illness,” says Dr. Hasnain Bawaadam, an interventional pulmonary and respiratory care services medical director at Aurora Health Care.

Dr. Bawaadam explains that symptoms may not present immediately. However, people with longer exposures to the chemicals may develop wheezing and irritation of the eyes, nose, and lungs.

He recommends taking the following measures to limit exposure to unhealthy chemicals:
  • Using climate control or rolling down the windows.
  • Parking in a shaded area or garage, helping reduce temperature fluctuations.
  • Selecting products made with untreated polyurethane foam or untreated cotton, wool, or natural latex. Some products, such as child car seats or carpet padding, may still be sold with chemical flame retardants.

Due to growing consumer concerns, some automobile manufacturers are taking steps to reduce levels of VOCs by using water-based adhesives and low-emission plastics.

Want to learn more about your risk for lung cancer? Take a free online quiz to learn more.

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Rafael Lopez