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    Is That ‘New Car Smell’ Toxic?

    New Rankings Uncover Toxic Chemicals in Top 10 Unhealthy Car Interiors
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    Feb. 15, 2012 -- That “new car smell” may come from toxic chemicals, according to new research.

    A new study suggests that new car smell comes from toxic chemicals off-gassing in a car’s interior, like brominated flame retardants (BFRs), chromium, and lead. In all, researchers identified more than 275 different chemicals in vehicle interiors, including those associated with birth defects, impaired learning, liver problems, and cancer.

    The 2012 new vehicle study from the nonprofit Ecology Center analyzed the chemical content of more than 200 new cars for its top 10 healthy and unhealthy car interiors. The higher the vehicle rating in the study, the higher the level of these chemicals was, based on their testing methods.

    At the top of the list for the most healthy car interior is the 2012 Honda Civic. Researchers say it earned strong marks for not having any bromine-based flame retardants, while boasting polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free interior fabrics and trim, and low levels of heavy metals.

    At the bottom of the list are the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and 2011 Chrysler 200 SC, which both had scores in the “high” range. For example, the Mitsubishi Outlander had bromine and antimony-based flame retardants in seating and other areas, chromium-treated leather, and lead in seating materials.

    Top 10 Healthy Car Interiors

    Model Year

    Make

    Model

    Vehicle Rating

    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

    Top 10 Unhealthy Car Interiors

    (Worst at bottom)

    Model Year

    Make

    Model

    Vehicle Rating

    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

    What the Ratings Mean

    Researchers say that immediately after delivery, new cars have unusually high concentrations of a variety of chemicals, hence that “new car smell.”

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