There’s something about that new car smell. Unfortunately, while some folks love the scent of a vehicle that’s just rolled out of the showroom the volatile chemicals found in many automotive interiors can make others quite ill.
So, a new study is naming names and pointing fingers, identifying the 2012 Honda Civic as the safest automotive interior, while listing the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport as the vehicle most likely to make you sick.
“Automobiles function as chemical reactors, creating one of the most hazardous environments we spend time in,” says Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center.
There was a time when manufacturers actually worked to enhance the classic new car scent, and even now Volkswagen and a number of other automakers operate departments specifically to develop appealing aromas.
The problem is that what most of us think of us when we drive a off in a new car is likely to be the smell of any number of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, many of which are downright unhealthy to be breathing in while confined in a small place like a passenger compartment, the Ecology Center notes.
There are also a variety of questionable compounds used for treating leathers and other interior materials.
The Mitsubishi Outlander, the organization noted, “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 three worst models on the “Greenest Vehicles” list from the Ecology Center are:
- The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport;
- The Chrysler 300C; and
- The Kia Soul.
Currently, automotive interiors are unregulated when it comes to the use of chemical compounds, and “consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face,” said Gearheart.
But he credits the industry with “working on” ways to replace dangerous materials with healthier ones. The new battery-car start-up, Fisker Automotive, for example, specifically says it has taken steps to eliminate any dangerous VOCs and reduce the use of other unhealthy compounds. (The maker is also appealing to animal rights activists by offering an optional “animal free” interior that uses safe alternatives to leather.)
According to the Ecology Center, the safest cars from an interior chemical standpoint are:
- The Honda Civic;
- The Toyota Prius; and
- The Honda CR-Z.
For the complete results of the Ecology Center study, Click Here.