By on July 24, 2008

The most toxic new car smell on the market...Environmentally friendliness is the flavor of day in the world of marketing. But let's face it: eco-friendly claims usually begin and end with mileage and CO2 emissions. But what about the environment you occupy when you're driving your car? The Ecology Center has released its Healthy Car Report, which monitors toxic chemical levels in car interiors. Using a portable X-Ray fluorescence device, the Ecology Center tests 11 interior components on a range of new cars for toxic chemicals like Antimony, Arsenic, Bromine, Chlorine, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Nickel and Tin. Some of the worst offenders? Mitsubishi's Eclipse and the Suzuki Reno, which have more Bromine than the salt marshes of Montpellier. The Kia Spectra has a particularly high lead count. And the Nissan Versa scores a worst-possible 5.0 overall thanks to a smorgasbord of toxic interior materials. For a complete look at the best and worst cars by class, check out the report's vehicles of most and least concern. Or, for an overview on the report, check out the Ecology Center's mildly sensationalistic video "Toxic At Any Speed." And enjoy that new car smell!

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20 Comments on “Study Of Interior Toxicity Released...”

  • avatar

    We bought a Honda Civic LX in June. The most striking thing about it: no new car smell. None. And not surprisingly, it gets a great score at Bravo Honda for using such quality materials.

    Actually, there is a slight amount of new car smell now that we have had it for six weeks, but only when you get in after the car’s been sitting in the sun all day. My theory is some of the adhesives and other materials are effervescing slightly in the heat, and this builds up in the cabin. But it’s very slight. As opposed to our Chevy which still reeked of newness 18 months into ownership.

  • avatar

    Bromine is bad ?

    What about Brominated Vegetable Oil ?

    (Soft-drink ingredient, along with other charmers like Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin and Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids)

  • avatar

    The Kia Spectra has a particularly high lead count.

    I’ll try to remember not to chew on the dashboard the next time I’m in a Kia Spectra.

  • avatar

    Their methodolgy seems to fail on at least two counts:

    1) What they have detected are elements (antimony, arsenic, etc) and not chemical compounds. The chemical state of the elements (e.g., what other elements are the elements in question bonded to and in what configuration) has everything to do with their toxicity. (The type of x-ray work they preformed will not give them this information.)

    2) They do not demonstrate that chronic exposure to the elements detected at the given detection levels is dangerous. They cannot do this because they do not know the chemical compounds involved (just the elements).

    All they can say is that cars with lower concentrations of the elements in question are perhaps more likely to be less harmful to you. It is a very tenuous conclusion at best.

  • avatar

    The Daewoo Suzuki’s don’t seem to fair very well.

    Even more reason for the US to get the Swift.

  • avatar

    I usually try to raise the toxicity of every car I sit in. Can you measure that?

  • avatar

    Morea, I think you’re right. Many elements can be extremely dangerous in elemental form, but totally harmless as a component in a compound (sodium chloride, anyone?).

    From their list of tested elements, lead stands out as being the only one that’s relatively common in elemental form and harmful at the same time. Are they seriously hinting that copper, nickel, PVC (chlorine), and tin are harmful? If you read their pdf’d full report, they even say that many of these elements aren’t very harmful and are widely used in other applications.

  • avatar

    Wow!The Astra did really great,better than most, even the Civic. I knew there was another great reason I bought this car.

  • avatar

    So is buying a used car a healthier choice since everything has had a chance to bake out for a few years?

  • avatar


    It is a healthier choice, if for no reason other than reduced stress.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t some company make gauze-like pads that you put on your feet overnight to suck toxins out of your body? Buy a Kia and a couple packages of those and save yourself some coin!

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    And I was looking forward to barbecuing a new car interior next weekend.

    This means I am going to have to continue eating meat.

  • avatar

    Wow, I just looked up my wife’s car. A 2006 Jetta. Chlorine is abundant in that interior. I do have to say that our whites have never been whiter since we got it.

  • avatar

    lol witty commentary! :D

    they don’t tell you that smoking a single cigarette exposes you to 400% more toxins than you would get grinding up the entire dashboard and snorting it. can we reorganize our priorities, please?

  • avatar

    I love the smell of bromine

  • avatar

    Another piece of useless information to appease the green lobby. It’s what comes out of the tailpipe that causes concern, not a mixture of aromas(both manufactured and human) that pollute the interior

  • avatar

    Don’t the Japanese actually have a program to limit the outgassing of VOC’s allowed for interior materials?
    Maybe that’s why they seem to score better.

  • avatar

    Danm, Just what I need to do: feel bad about that new car smell. I wish that aroma could be bottled and sold. BTW, a poster mentioned chlorine (and its iterations like PVC) as being rather benign. Unfortunately that’s not true. Chlorine, while widely used in the industrialized world, has some serious health issues. Spend a little time googling about it; its not so harmless after all…

    Landcrusher said: Buying used…It is a healthier choice, if for no reason other than reduced stress.

    Ain’t that the truth…car payments suck…

  • avatar

    I did a build to order for a Jeep TJ a few years ago. I was driving it five days after it rolled off the line, and boy, that was tough driving it as it stunk! It was winter too, so I was forced to leave the windows up.

  • avatar

    Here’s an idea. Bring your new car down to Houston in the summer. Leave it sitting with the windows down.

    All the interior’s toxins will get boiled out by the heat and humidity.


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