• Feb 21, 2012
Honda has taken it on the chin for its boring redesign of the Civic, but here's one thing it got really right: reducing the use of toxic chemicals as it manufactured the interiors. According to the Ecology Center's new report on HealthyStuff.org, the 2012 Civic uses the least amount of off-gassing plastics, materials that can lead to emissions of volatile organic compounds. VOCs have been linked to health problems, including cancer and birth defects, according to the report.

"Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center, in a statement. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose those dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives."

For example, Honda does not use bromine-based flame retardants in the Civic and specs PVC-free interior fabrics and trim, while also eliminating most heavy metals from the interior.

The worst vehicle tested, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, "contained bromine and antimony-based flame retardants in the seating and center console; chromium treated leather on several components; and over 400 ppm lead in seating materials," according to the report.

The good news is that PVC use is declining overall, with 17 percent of new models boasting PVC-free interiors, up from none in 2006, according to HealthyStuff.org. Some 60 percent of new vehicles do not contain bromine flame retardants. It seems like automakers are getting behind efforts to eliminate these hazardous chemicals from vehicle interiors, with HealthyStuff.org pointing out that Ford and Volvo have adopted voluntary third-party eco labels for some of their vehicles. Ford's average ratings for its vehicles showed a 30 percent improvement from the 2009/2010 study.

Click past the jump for a video and the full press release, including the 10 best and worst vehicles in the study.


Show full PR text
New Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Cars Helps Consumers Avoid "New Car Smell" As Major Source of Indoor Air Pollution
Best Picks: Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Honda CR-Z
Worst Picks: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Chrysler 200, Kia Soul
Honda Rated as Top Manufacturer; PVC Reduction Efforts Hailed


(Ann Arbor, MI) - Today the Ecology Center released its fourth consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars at HealthyStuff.org, finding the Honda Civic at the top of this year's list, and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport at the bottom. Over 200 of the most popular 2011- and 2012-model vehicles were tested for chemicals that off-gas from parts such as the steering wheel, dashboard, armrests and seats. These chemicals contribute to "new car smell" and a variety of acute and long-term health concerns. Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in a car every day, toxic chemical exposure inside vehicles can be a major source of indoor air pollution.

"Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose those dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives."

Chemicals of primary concern include: bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; and heavy metals. Such chemicals have been linked to a wide range of health problems such as allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. Automobiles are particularly harsh environments for plastics, as extreme air temperatures of 192 F and dash temperatures up to 248 F can increase the concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) and break other chemicals down into more toxic substances.

"Automobiles function as chemical reactors, creating one of the most hazardous environments we spend time in," added Gearhart.

The good news is overall vehicle ratings are improving. The best vehicles today have eliminated hazardous flame retardants and PVC. Today, 17 are produced without BFRs.

Top ranking cars in this year's release are: 1) Honda Civic 2) Toyota Prius and 3) Honda CR-Z. Worst ranking: 1) Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2) Chrysler 200 SC and 3) Kia Soul. The Civic achieved its ranking by being free of bromine-based flame retardants in all interior components; utilizing PVC-free interior fabrics and interior trim; and having low levels of heavy metals and other metal allergens. The Mitsubishi Outlander contained bromine and antimony-based flame retardants in the seating and center console; chromium treated leather on several components; and over 400 ppm lead in seating materials. The full list of top 10 best and worst cars is found below:

Ten Best Picks
2012 Honda Civic 0.46
2011 Toyota Prius 0.55
2011 Honda CR-Z 0.63
2011 Nissan cube 0.65
2012 Acura RDX 0.74
2012 Acura ZDX 0.74
2012 Audi S5 0.74
2011 Smart Coupe 0.74
2011 Toyota Venza 0.77
2011 Smart Passion 0.79

Ten Worst Picks
2012 Mini Cooper S Clubman 2.84
2012 VW Eos 2.85
2011 Kia Sportage 2.87
2011 Chevy Aveo5 2.89
2012 Hyundai Accent 2.98
2011 Mazda CX-7 3.08
2011 Nissan Versa 3.08
2011 Kia Soul 3.11
2011 Chrysler 200 SC 3.17
2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 3.17

"We're pleased to be recognized by HealthyStuff.org for our efforts. Over the past decade, Honda has taken a number of steps to reduce or remove chemicals of concern from our vehicles. We voluntarily report these efforts in our annual North American Environmental Report," stated Marcos Frommer, Manager of Corporate Affairs & Communications at American Honda.

Anyone looking to buy a new car can visit www.HealthyStuff.org and search by model, comparison shop between different models, and cross reference with fuel economy standards to find both a healthy and fuel-efficient vehicle. A widget and mobile phone application are also available. Visitors to the site are encouraged to contact car manufacturers and ask them to subscribe to voluntary third party eco labels, such as the TUV Toxproof and Oko-Tex Standard 100, and reduce their use of toxic chemicals in vehicles. A number of leading automakers, including Ford (TUV) and Volvo (Oko Tex), have already adopted these standards for some of their vehicles.

Other Findings:

Most improved automakers in terms of the average ratings for their vehicles are VW (+42) and Ford (+30%). These represent improvement from the 2009/2010 models to the 2011/2012 models.

Two automaker had overall declining average scores from 2009/2010 to 2011/2012: Diamler AG (-29).

On a fleet-wide basis PVC use is declining. Zero percent of pre-2006 vehicles had PVC-free interiors, versus 17% (34) of the 2011/2012 vehicle models which had PVC-free interiors. Flexible PVC often contains hazardous plasticizers, or "softeners," called phthalates, which off-gas during vehicle use and are deposited on dust particles and windshields, where they cause "fogging." In recent years, automakers have begun replacing PVC with polyurethanes and polyolefins, which contain fewer harmful additives and are easier to recycle.

40% of vehicle tested in 2012 contained Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) in the vehicle interiors. BFR's refer to a wide range of chemicals added to materials to both inhibit their ignition and slow their rate of combustion. Alternatives which provide the degree of fire safety required under law without using organic compounds of bromine exist, as well as options in product redesign.

Note: HealthyStuff.org only tests for a limited set of chemical hazards. Vehicles may also contain other chemical hazards, including chlorinated flame retardants (CFR) which were NOT tested for in this study


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 30 Comments
      Arun Murali
      • 2 Years Ago
      I appreciate the efforts put by this group to test and compile a list of vehicles with less Toxic plastics in it. I for one hate that plastic smell, it used to make me obnoxious even before i learnt about these toxic emissions from them. I dont fully understand why companies would want to burn interior plastics which leads to VOCs. As I understand VOC's are emitted into the air only when you actually burn/evaporate them. And you normally dont burn plastics to recycle them.
      NightFlight
      • 2 Years Ago
      I predict people sueing Hyundai over mileage claims. "I wish I had better news for Hyundai, but its Sonata Hybrid, EPA-estimated to return 35 city/40 highway, mustered a disappointing 27.0 mpg observed, almost 10 mpg less than its hybrid foe from Toyota. What gives? "Both the gas engine and electric motor really need to be wrung out to even keep up with the Camry and Passat," judged Kong. "The poor electric motor, which serves as the six-speed auto's torque converter, is overworked, and, as a consequence, the car really struggles under high-load conditions and overall integration is not smooth. If the electric motor were more powerful (it's outpaced by the Camry Hybrid's primary tractive motor by 101 hp), it might help." Not only did the Sonata's fuel economy suffer, so did its track performance, trailing the Camry to 60 by a monstrous 2.3 seconds--and Hyundai claims 6 horsepower more than Toyota with similar weight-to-power. Hyundai also touts its use of a conventional automatic and lighter lithium-polymer batteries, both of which are supposed to work better than their CVT and nickel-metal hydride/lithium-ion counterparts. But the net results say the opposite. Making things worse, we rated the Sonata's steering too rubbery, the brakes too grabby, and the throttle too jerky." Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1112_2011_hyundai_sonata_hybrid_vs_2012_toyota_camry_hybrid_vs_2012_volkswagen_passat_tdi_comparison/viewall.html#ixzz1n7WVB1xV
      mygm4dn5
      • 2 Years Ago
      I predict people sueing Honda over mileage claims. Civic hybrid owner wins in court over too-low mpg Southern California Honda Civic hybrid owner Heather Peters won $9,867 in a court fight with Honda over what she said was her car's too-low mileage. Here's the Associated Press report: The Southern California owner of a Honda hybrid car won her unusual small-claims court lawsuit against the automaker over the vehicle's failure to deliver its stated fuel economy. Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan awarded Heather Peters $9,867 on Wednesday, saying Honda did mislead her about the expected mileage. "At a bare minimum Honda was aware ... that by the time Peters bought her car there were problems with its living up to its advertised mileage," he wrote in the judgment. Peters opted out of a class-action lawsuit so she could try to claim a higher payment for the failure of her Civic to deliver the 50 miles per gallon that was advertised when she bought it. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2012/02/civic-hybbrid-mpg-low-honda-loses-owner-wins-small-claims/1#.T0UVM_V1F14
        Twitter
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mygm4dn5
        Dang Justin Campanale, how many accounts do you have, and how much is Hyundai paying you to sensor blogs?
          mygm4dn5
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Twitter
          Troll NightFlight = invisibleblog = Twitter Now This Honda paid troll invisibleblog created a another account name Twitter to rave about how bad Hyundai was. After saw your previous comments, you are 100% paid troll by Honda.
        Mary Keana
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mygm4dn5
        Consumer Reports put cars EPA claims to the test. Here are their results in what they averaged over the highway estimates reported by the manufacturers. Car - highway estimate - ACTUAL +11 Volkswagen Passat TDI 40 51 +8 Honda Civic LX 39 47 +8 +8 Honda CR-Z EX 37 45 +8 +7 Toyota Prius 48 55 +7 +7 Scion xD 33 40 +7 +7 Volkswagen Golf 42 49 +7 +7 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon 42 49 +7 +7 Lexus CT 200h 40 47 +7 +7 Toyota Prius V 40 47 +7 +6 Honda Civic Hybrid 44 50 +6 +6 Toyota Corolla 34 40 +6 +6 Toyota Camry 35 41 +6 +6 Ford Fiesta SE 39 45 +6 +5 Ford Focus SE 38 43 +5 +5 Toyota Camry Hybrid 38 43 +5 +5 Mazda2 Sport 35 40 +5 +5 Hyundai Accent GLS 40 45 +5 +4 Honda Civic EX 39 43 +4 +4 Fiat 500 Sport 38 42 +4 +4 Fiat 500C Pop 38 42 +4 +4 Ford Fiesta SES 38 42 +4 +4 Mini Cooper 37 41 +4 +4 BMW 335d 36 40 +4 +4 Ford Fusion 36 40 +4 +3 Volkswagen Jetta TDI 42 45 +3 +3 Mazda3 i Touring 40 43 +3 +2 Nissan Versa SV 38 40 +2 +1 Honda Insight EX 44 45 +1 0 Hyundai Santa Fe 26 26 0 0 Hyundai Tucson 28 28 0 0 Kia Forte EX Hatchback 36 36 0 0 Kia Optima LX 34 34 0 0 Kia Sorento 28 28 0 0 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 40 40 0 -1 Hyundai Santa Fe 4-cyl 25 24 -1 -1 Hyundai Elantra 40 39 -1
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mygm4dn5
        that's really weak Justin Campanale
        mary.keana
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mygm4dn5
        Well Justin Campanale, Looks like your employeer Hyundai is the one being sued. BTW, why do you use so many accounts? http://www.autoblog.com/2012/07/11/hyundai-elantra-subject-of-class-action-lawsuit-for-misleading/#aol-comments "Justin Campanale" "I think he stole mygm4dn5's screen name just the way he stole yours."
      NightFlight
      • 2 Years Ago
      mygm4dn5, you really fail as a Hyundai ghost blogger.
        mygm4dn5
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        Looks like the This Honda ghost blogger is hard at work earning their Honda dollars.
        mygm4dn5
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        I'm no related to Hyundai. After watching your previous comments, I know you are ghost blogger of Honda, I just following your tactic.
      Mary Keana
      • 2 Years Ago
      Do you really want to talk and compare mileage estimates? Consumer Reports just put cars with 40mpg claims to the test. Civic Hybrid rated 44, averaged 50 mpg for a +6 Civic LX rated 39, averaged 47 for a +8 Civic EX rated 39, averaged 43 for a +4 Fiesta SE rated 39, averaged 45 for a +6 CR-Z rated 37, averaged 45 for a +8 Hyundai Accent rated 40, averaged 39 for a -1
        JeremyD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mary Keana
        Take Hyundai's claims and cut them by at least 10%, then you get an accurate EPA figure.
      Mary Keana
      • 2 Years Ago
      Consumer Reports put cars EPA claims to the test. Here are their results in what they averaged over the highway estimates reported by the manufacturers. Car - highway estimate - ACTUAL +11 Volkswagen Passat TDI 40 51 +8 Honda Civic LX 39 47 +8 +8 Honda CR-Z EX 37 45 +8 +7 Toyota Prius 48 55 +7 +7 Scion xD 33 40 +7 +7 Volkswagen Golf 42 49 +7 +7 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon 42 49 +7 +7 Lexus CT 200h 40 47 +7 +7 Toyota Prius V 40 47 +7 +6 Honda Civic Hybrid 44 50 +6 +6 Toyota Corolla 34 40 +6 +6 Toyota Camry 35 41 +6 +6 Ford Fiesta SE 39 45 +6 +5 Ford Focus SE 38 43 +5 +5 Toyota Camry Hybrid 38 43 +5 +5 Mazda2 Sport 35 40 +5 +5 Hyundai Accent GLS 40 45 +5 +4 Honda Civic EX 39 43 +4 +4 Fiat 500 Sport 38 42 +4 +4 Fiat 500C Pop 38 42 +4 +4 Ford Fiesta SES 38 42 +4 +4 Mini Cooper 37 41 +4 +4 BMW 335d 36 40 +4 +4 Ford Fusion 36 40 +4 +3 Volkswagen Jetta TDI 42 45 +3 +3 Mazda3 i Touring 40 43 +3 +2 Nissan Versa SV 38 40 +2 +1 Honda Insight EX 44 45 +1 0 Hyundai Santa Fe 26 26 0 0 Hyundai Tucson 28 28 0 0 Kia Forte EX Hatchback 36 36 0 0 Kia Optima LX 34 34 0 0 Kia Sorento 28 28 0 0 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 40 40 0 -1 Hyundai Santa Fe 4-cyl 25 24 -1 -1 Hyundai Elantra 40 39 -1
      ____|____
      • 2 Years Ago
      Look at KIA and Hyundia dominate that bottom 10 list for worst/most toxic with their cancer causing plastics outgassing. Guess we know where their cost cutting goes.
      NightFlight
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ten Worst Picks - obvious where Hyundia and KIA do all their cost cutting. 2012 Mini Cooper S Clubman 2.84 2012 VW Eos 2.85 2011 Kia Sportage 2.87 2011 Chevy Aveo5 2.89 2012 Hyundai Accent 2.98 2011 Mazda CX-7 3.08 2011 Nissan Versa 3.08 2011 Kia Soul 3.11 2011 Chrysler 200 SC 3.17 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 3.17
      NightFlight
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like KIA and Hyundai dominate the MOST TOXIC list with their cancer causing outgassing plastics.
        mygm4dn5
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        Worst pick is Mitsubishi Outlander. Looks like Mitsubishi and Nissan dominate the MOST TOXIC list with their cancer causing outgassing plastics.
      JeremyD
      • 2 Years Ago
      I will say that I used to hold, in high regard, Japanese car interiors... now they seem kinda boring compared to the competition... Fit and finish are always great but even american car companies have caught up in the fit and finish department. Ever see the interior or the Cadillac CTS? Best ever in my book... sorry for the slight tangent, i know the article is about eco friendly interiors but they dont have to be boring, like the one pictured.
      mygm4dn5
      • 2 Years Ago
      I predict people sueing Honda over mileage claims. Calif. Honda lawsuit could be model for other Civic Hybrid owners http://bangordailynews.com/2012/02/05/business/calif-honda-lawsuit-could-be-model-for-other-civic-hybrid-owners/
      NightFlight
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like Justin Campanale, is able to get mentions of Hyundai's being on this list, edited out of the blog.
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