Everything we love is now under scrutiny.
It's a wonderful thing, that new car smell. Whether you're climbing into a cheap Hyundai, a new Audi A5, or a Bugatti Chiron, there's something special about climbing into a car fresh off the dealer lot and taking in the aromas of new plastics, leathers, and carpets. So when you think about harmful emissions, you probably think of those emitted by the exhaust pipe. However, it turns out that your car's interior materials could be making you sick. Eight substances have been found to emit from car interiors and they're called volatile organic compounds: acetaldehyde, toluene, benzene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, styrene, acrolein, and xylene. None of these are meant to be inhaled.
Nick Molden, the CEO of testing company Emissions Analytics, says that these VOCs don't just evaporate and then disappear. "It will evaporate into the cabin and then, in the evening, when it cools down, it will be reabsorbed by the surfaces. And it will re-evaporate again the next day, so when you mix it all up in a sort of VOC soup, then expose it to sunlight, you basically have a biosphere of VOCs, which can last quite a long time." Side effects can include shortness of breath, nausea, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and more. The quick fix is to leave your car in the sun with the windows open, but lawmakers want more.
Asia has reported the most symptoms which led South Korea's government to establish local standards for these VOCs in 2007. Japan and Russia have taken a similar stance while the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has updated its guidance on VOCs. At present, it's not law, but governments are being urged to implement standards for all new cars. However, this will likely require manufacturers to screen the products their suppliers send them to ensure they meet regulations, if and when they become law, and the knock-on effect will likely be slightly higher car prices. With ever-stricter regulations on all sorts of new cars, prices may swell a little, but at least we'll be healthier for it.