Consumers are often excited to purchase a new car, but a new study suggests that the smell associated with it may be harmful to their health.

Researchers from several Chinese institutions and two Harvard University colleagues discovered high levels of chemicals inside a newly purchased SUV. 

The study, which was published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, examined air samples collected inside the vehicle over a period of several days.

Dangers of the New Car Smell

When you buy a new car, it has what is known as a “new car smell.” Phys.org tells us that this odor is caused by chemicals released into the air by the materials used to manufacture automobiles, a process known as off-gassing. 

Previous research has suggested that some of these chemicals, such as formaldehyde, may be harmful to new drivers’ health.

Breathing in formaldehyde can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation at low levels, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 

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Furthermore, formaldehyde exposure at higher levels can cause skin rashes, shortness of breath, wheezing, and changes in lung function. Children, the elderly, and people with asthma or other breathing problems may be more sensitive to formaldehyde’s effects.

A Look Into the Study

In the study, the researchers looked more closely at the chemicals released into the air by a single vehicle – a brand-new, midsize, plug-in hybrid SUV manufactured within one month of testing. 

For 12 days, the team parked the SUV in a nearby outdoor parking lot and tested the air inside it daily. They identified the chemicals in the air sample and their concentrations using gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy.

The researchers discovered 20 chemicals in the air samples from vehicle components. The amounts varied primarily due to surface temperatures inside the car rather than air temperatures. 

Some chemicals, such as formaldehyde, exceeded government safety standards by up to 35% at some points, and acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen, exceeded regulatory limits by 61%. The team also discovered benzene levels that they deemed unsafe for long-distance drivers to breathe.

According to experts, short-term exposure to acetaldehyde may cause damage to your lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Acetaldehyde liquid or vapor can irritate the skin and eyes. 

A Concerning Situation for Drivers

The study’s findings are concerning because many car owners are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. 

The researchers recommend that new car buyers ride with their windows open to reduce their exposure. Additionally, automakers should look for ways to reduce the chemicals released during the off-gassing process.

study suggests that driver health and fitness are critical factors in predicting performance outcomes and promoting road safety. It is proven that drivers with health impairments or illnesses are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents and sustain multiple injuries.

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