Ah, the smell of a new car. Are you someone who looks forward to the scent of ‘new car smell’ when you purchase a new vehicle? You’ve come to expect it. Or are you someone, like me, who tries to avoid it at all costs?
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What Is New Car Smell?
According to Robert Weitz, the founder of RTK Environmental Group,
The new car scent you’re smelling is actually made up of something called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. The new car smell occurs when the various materials that make up your car “outgas” and release VOCs.”
What Causes New Car Smell?
Consider all of the parts and pieces that make up a car interior – the dashboard, steering wheel, seats, armrests, paint, carpet, etc. Each of those parts is created with materials and chemicals that could off-gas and release VOCs.
In fact, there can be between 30-250 VOCs in a single car!
In addition, more VOCs can be released when a car is driven or parked in hot temperatures.
Can New Car Smell Make You Sick?
Since VOCs are so potent and numerous in a brand new car, they can be harmful to us as we inhale them.
For example, VOCs coming from formaldehyde, and benzene are known carcinogens according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
In addition to chemicals being carcinogenic, other chemicals can cause health symptoms such as headaches, asthma, and hormone disruption.
If the detrimental symptoms that come from known chemicals weren’t enough, more toxic substances can be created from heat breaking down those chemicals which can create additional health issues. A new car is really a unique cocktail of chemicals.
>>Read Next: Toxic Cars: A Unique Cocktail of Chemicals <<
How Long Does a New Car Smell Last?
VOCs eventually evaporate, but off-gassing VOCs can last anywhere from 4 months to a few years.
According to Japan’s Osaka Institute of Public Health, it can take at least four months for high levels of VOCs (35 times the maximum health limit set in Japan) to drop below that threshold.
Europe and Asia Are Leading the Way to Less VOCs
The tides are beginning to change when it comes to new car smell. Many countries realize that the scent in a new car interior isn’t beneficial. It’s quite the opposite. Due to the growth of harmful VOCs that can be released in new cars, Japan, China, Korea, and Russia have regulations that limit the number of air pollutants in car interiors.
A 2018 J.D. Power China Initial Quality Study gathered that consumers in China hate new car smell. Unpleasant interior smell/odor was their top industry concern.
In fact, due to the growth of the automobile industry in Asia, it is a “tremendous driver of vehicle interior air quality or VIAQ. Research showing that off-gassing, or chemicals emitting from vehicle interior materials such as plastics, fabrics, resins, and polymers, is a growing concern.”
Europe also has restrictions on the use of chemicals. “The European Union’s REACH program (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and restriction of CHemical substances) was implemented to protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals, and to find less toxic substitutes for use in vehicles and other manufactured and consumer goods.”
With the increasing regulations, complaints from consumers and more stringent OEM standards around automobile interior air quality, auto manufacturers are taking notice and having to implement some changes. Next generation components and adhesives should have fewer VOCs.
Ford Getting Rid of New Car Scent
In late 2018, the Detroit Free Press reported that Ford filed a patent application for an odor-removal process that gets rid of new-car smells once the car is purchased.
In addition to that patent, Ford and other automakers are beginning to reduce the number of VOCs in their vehicles which will lead to less new car scent.
How to Get Rid of New Car Smell
If you found this article in a search result, hoping to find ways to create new car smell, I’m sorry to have disappointed you. However, I hope the information shared throughout this article has given you a reason not to favor new car scent or at least has motivated you to do more research into what causes new car smell and why you should avoid it.
For those of you who want to have a healthy car, read on.
Getting rid of new car smell and driving a healthier car can be a little challenging and can take some time, but doing something about it can make it happen more quickly than doing nothing at all. Following are some suggestions.
- First and foremost, do not use a car air freshener. Some air fresheners only mask the scent. Others are highly toxic in their own right as they can contain harmful chemicals in them which creates the fragrance.
- Open your car windows up as much as possible to keep your car interior well ventilated.
- Park your car in the shade and use a solar shade. Remember, heat can increase the amount of off-gassing.
- Be sure to vacuum and dust your car regularly.
- Use a car purifier to help dissipate the amount of VOCs in your car which will then help to get rid of new car smell.
Hopefully, in the future, new car smell will be a thing of the past, but until then it’s best to minimize your exposure to it.
Read Next: Toxic Cars: A Unique Cocktail of Chemicals
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This is very helpful! I never knew there were car purifiers. I checked out the one you linked to. It has some really great reviews. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for stopping by Kristie! Yes, anything we can do to get rid of the VOCs in new car smell is helpful.