Skip to content

Men's Health

Font Size

Is That ‘New Car Smell’ Toxic?

New Rankings Uncover Toxic Chemicals in Top 10 Unhealthy Car Interiors

What the Ratings Mean continued...

In their study, the interiors of more than 200 cars from the 2011-2012 model year were analyzed using a portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer. The analyzer detects chemical elements such as lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, mercury, tin, and antimony.

Common areas checked in the car interiors were seats, arm rests, steering wheels, door trim, and shift knobs, among others.

Researchers say the elemental composition of the materials reveals the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals, such as BFRs, PVC, and possibly phthalate plastics. They say car interiors are like chemical reactors, with temperatures reaching extremes of up to 192 F. These high temperatures can increase the concentration of volatile compounds in the car and speed the breakdown of materials.

Exposure to toxic chemicals can be high indoors and in enclosed spaces like a car interior. Drivers are exposed to these chemicals by breathing and contact with dust.

The EPA says indoor air pollution is one of the top environmental threats to public health, since Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. Next to homes and offices, Americans spend the most time in automobiles, an average of one-and-a-half hours per day.

Rating the Automakers

Overall, researchers say vehicle ratings are improving thanks to the reduction in the use of PVC and bromine-based flame retardants by some automakers.

They say the top-rated automaker for healthy interiors in 2012 was Honda and has been since it started testing in 2007. Hyundai-Kia has been the lowest-ranked manufacturer for the last two years.

German automaker VW, along with Mitsubishi and Ford, earned the title of most-improved automakers. Their scores improved by 30% to 42% from the 2009-2010 model year to the 2011-2012 model year.

Daimler AG and Volvo were the only two automakers with declining average scores, -29% and -13%, respectively.

For a complete list of ratings, see

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore.
man swinging in hammock
And how to get out it.
shaving tools
On your shaving skills.
muscular man flexing
Four facts that matter.
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Man taking blood pressure
doctor holding syringe

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Condom Quiz
man running
older couple in bed