• Sep 27, 2005

You knew this was coming, didn't you? Another one of life's little pleasures bites the dust. It turns out that Japanese researchers have found that the new car smell that has intoxicated car buyers for decades is actually a toxic blend of chemicals knows as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
In a manner similar to sick-building syndrome, the VOCs can trigger headaches, sore throats, nausea and drowsiness. Apparently the cabin of your new car exhibits toxic emissions several times safe limits.

As part of a Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association initiative, the Japanese big five - Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi and Mazda - are launching cars with lower VOC levels, using the safer interiors as a key selling point. All their new vehicles will meet JDM VOC standards by 2007.

Meanwhile, U.S. automakers and the EPA are ignoring the issue.



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  • 35 Comments
      • 9 Years Ago
      Context? We're told every other day that this is bad for you, that is bad for you, this, which was supposed to be good for you, is actually really really bad for you, et cetera ad infinitum. Forgive me for including "OMFG new car smell is poisonous!!!". It may be - but at what levels of exposure and for what duration? Pretty much anything is toxic if consumed, absorbed, or inhaled in sufficient quantities. I, like NBA, would like to see "one case of someone actually having to be treated medically for riding in a brand new car". Honestly. We have bigger things in this world to worry about than potential nausea or dizziness from new car smell. The point of my anecdote was that, should something within the enclosed environment of your vehicle be making you dizzy, nauseated, sick, or giving you a headache, the best way to alleviate it is to roll down the window and let in fresh(er) air. Or turn the radio to something other than Rush...but that's another topic for another time. If "new car smell" really is making somebody sick - they should take said car to the dealership and have the problem addressed. But...on a short term basis...roll the windows down. All of that said, the exposure/effect seems to range from minimal to nonexistant in 99.9% of new cars. Which makes this whole argument rather silly. Now. How about we focus on curing cancer and keeping inebriated individuals from getting behind the wheel? That is, until we find out that the plastic on the car's breathalyzer tube contains toxins.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Hey Joe, lighten up on Doogs. It was a funny anecdote. Back on topic, I would like to see one case of someone actually having to be treated medically for riding in a brand new car. I just spent a weekend during which I spent 8 hours test driving cars with my mother, while driving my sister's 2 week old ride from dealer to dealer, then 6 hours the next day wringing out cars at one of GMs AutoShow in Motion events, and at no time did I feel light headed, nauseated, or sick. According to these people, I should be dead. I remain skeptical.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Lithous: "Off topic, but I'm curious what car interior is that in the pic for this blog?" It's a Toyota and possibly a Yaris or Vios.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The best new car smell I ever encountered was my grandparents' leather-clad 1978 Grand Marquis. . . nothing newer has smelled as good. . . or driven more like a Carnival Cruise ship.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Joseph, so if they came out and said Cialis was bad for you, would you stop using it?
      • 9 Years Ago
      Waking up is bad for you, sleeping is bad for you, smoking is bad for you, drinking is bad for you, the air is bad for you, the water is bad for you, food is bad for you, sugar is bad for you, being in the womb is bad for you, driving is bad for you, peanuts are bad for you. OK, lets get real, pass me the Scotch, hand me those peanuts as I light my cigar, give me another Scotch & water, let me eat that steak and garlic mashed potatoes, I'll have that Dove bar 50% fat now loaded with sugar, and for God's sake let me breathe my "harmful" new car smell. America, home of the safe, home of the complainers,home of the attorneys. What a sad plce we've become.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Lithous - US Spec Toyota Yaris: www.toyota.com/vehicles/future/yaris.html
      • 9 Years Ago
      Dismiss it now, Detroit, just like you dismissed Hybrids, at your own risk. Is it more PR ploy than healthcare crisis? Yes. Will the Japanese manufacturers take this and the hybrids and play themselves up as the environmentally responsible car manufacturers? Absolutely. Will American consumers and media eat it up? You bet. Will GM end up playing catch-up? Yet again.
      • 9 Years Ago
      When US automakers will follow? Think you'll have to wait until a class action lawsuit from people getting ill in new cars. Then again most people would like to keep a new-car feel as long as possible....even if that means that your head has the same RPM as the cars engine from all that VOC.... ;-) plexi 8-)
      • 9 Years Ago
      Whenever I get a new car I break out in hives (urticaria) all over my body and on real bad days my face and eyes swell (angioedema). My throat can swell where I can't breathe (this landed me in the hospital after I got a new car in 1997). I've always been suspicious that the toxic chemicals that are released from my new cars where the culprit, but when I mentioned it to the doctors they just looked at me like I was crazy. The episodes only come about after a month or so of having the new car and last about four to five months until, I imagine, my body gets used to the high levels of chemicals or the chemicals dissipate (I'm not sure).
      • 9 Years Ago
      I only ask because I thought the Saturn Ion was getting rid of the center gauges because everyone hated it? Or did they just hate the Ion the center gauges was something to pick on? I wonder why Toyota would take a chance. Do people like their version of center gauges as seen in the pic?
      • 9 Years Ago
      After a few FARTS in your new ride you won't even be able to notice.
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