A new study shows the smell is a mix of several chemicals, including benzene, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde.
A new study suggests that the new car smell is bad for us, potentially causing deadly illnesses like cancer. Buying a new car is a very exciting experience. It's made even better by that new car smell, an intoxicating blend of fresh plastics, leather, carpets, and trimmings. But that new car smell does not always occur naturally. It's often a mix of several chemicals, including benzene and formaldehyde, which have been linked to rare cancers and even myeloid leukemia.
This is according to a team of researchers from the Beijing Institute of Technology. For a period of 12 days, scientists studied a new, midsized plug-in hybrid SUV. This vehicle was less than a month old at the time, and the cabin contained plenty of plastic, woven cloth, and faux leather.
The SUV was parked (outside and in varying conditions) so that emissions from other vehicles wouldn't interfere with the study. Over the test period, researchers observed 20 chemicals that were produced within the cabin - and the results are rather alarming.
The study revealed high levels of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde present in the vehicle. Worryingly, both chemicals in the cabin exceeded the limits set by Chinese national safety standards. If you're not aware, formaldehyde is a very potent chemical that is used to preserve corpses and has been linked to cancer before.
Over the duration of the test period, researchers determined that there is a health risk to drivers and passengers. The Incremental Lifetime Cancer Risk (ILCR) for drivers and passengers exposed to chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde is heightened. Spending just 30 minutes in a new vehicle puts someone at risk.
Professor Oliver Jones, a Professor of Chemistry in Melbourne, Australia, wrote on Science Media Center that he believes the study had been conducted thoroughly.
"We know from previous research that for some people, it can cause health problems such as dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath," he said. "Health-wise, the best new-car smell is probably no smell."
Previous studies have looked into the dangers of the new car smell, with Emissions Analytics warning that the chemicals that make up this scent were not meant to be inhaled.
"It will evaporate into the cabin, and then, in the evening, when it cools down, it will be reabsorbed by the surfaces," the company said. "And it will re-evaporate again the next day, so when you mix it all up in a sort of VOC [volatile organic compound] soup, then expose it to sunlight, you have a biosphere of VOCs, which can last quite a long time."
This has led to people experiencing dizziness, nausea, and even headaches. As a result, lawmakers are looking to enforce more stringent regulations around the use of these chemicals.
Benzene, one of the compounds mentioned in the study, is also found in gasoline - another scent many of us cannot resist. Regardless of whether your next purchase is a Bentley Bentayga or a Honda Accord, you may want to think twice before breathing that new car smell in deeply.
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