New Car Smells Are Toxic

Australian Researchers Say New Car Interiors Emit Toxic Smells

December 19, 2001CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -

That "new car smell" can be toxic and even carcinogenic, according to a two-year study by Australia's leading government research organization.

The study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, CSIRO, found gases emitted by vinyl and plastic materials in new cars can cause headaches, nausea and drowsiness.

Steve Brown, head of the CSIRO's Air Quality Control Division, said a new car could expose occupants to levels of toxic emissions many times beyond limits established by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council, NHMRC. Long-term exposure can be carcinogenic and may cause abnormalities in unborn children, he said.

Among the chemicals found in the new cars, benzene, a known human carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent, reached levels five times above the exposure limit recommended in Britain.

Brown said the toxic emissions could take just a few minutes to take effect, remain in the car for up to a year and may be responsible for causing some accidents.

"Something that causes headaches, that causes eye irritation and that causes drowsiness, it's quite logical that it will have an impact on accidents," he said.

Brown called on car manufacturers to fund further research into using other materials. The automotive industry's peak body criticized the study saying people were exposed to similar substances every day.

"New vehicle interiors use modern materials, identical to those encountered by persons in everyday life, such as carpets, kitchen utensils, packaging and storage containers," said Peter Sturrock, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Sturrock said the study's four anecdotal cases could have involved people who were particularly sensitive to chemicals.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

New Car Smell

Osaka Inst Public Health, Japan 1/03

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