NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - A Michigan environmental group is charging that at least part of the so-called "new car smell" is toxic, and that the interior of an automobile has dangerous levels of various chemicals.
The report, "Toxic at any speed," comes from The Ecology Center, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based group. It reports that PBDEs, used as fire retardants, and phthalates, used primarily to soften PVC plastics, are found in dangerous amounts in dust and windshield film samples.
It called for tougher regulations to phase out the use of the chemicals as well as voluntary moves by the auto manufacturers to stop using the products inside of new vehicles.
It also suggested that car owners take steps to reduce the release and breakdown of these chemicals by using solar reflectors, ventilating car interiors, and parking outside of sunlight whenever possible.
The group says that phthalates are partly responsible for the smell associated with new cars.
Drivers and passengers are exposed to these chemicals through inhalation and contact with dust, according to the group's report.
"These groups of chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals, among other serious health problems," according to the report.
This report will be very unsurprising to certain of my friends and family; it may be news to others. Regardless, it's something to consider when shopping for new vs. used wheels. I know that, if nothing else, the smell makes me feel pretty gross...
This is yet another example of various technologies that have hidden risks about which the public is relatively ill-informed. Don't even get me started about the way that the pharmaceutical industry sometimes handles testing (and marketing) of its products!