The typical “new car smell” will soon be banished as regulatory bodies find it could be harmful to the occupants.
Produced from material that makes up the interior of the car (leather, carpet, plastic, glue,etc.), the “new car smell” has been identified to contain VOCs or ‘volatile organic compounds’ that may harm the occupant’s health.
Made up of acetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, styrene, toluene, and xylene, this scent has been reported to cause some people allergy-like reactions such as eye irritation, nausea, dizziness, sneezing, fatigue, headaches, and respiratory discomfort.
The chemicals follow a cycle of evaporation from the materials as it is exposed to heat and reabsorption by the surfaces when it cools down. Eventually, a biosphere of these VOCs may be formed inside of a new car, and, according to Nick Molden, CEO of independent testing company Emissions Analytics, this mixed soup of VOCs can last for quite a while in a new car.
This ‘sick car syndrome’ is not a new phenomenon and has been reported predominantly in Asia. Even though regulations for maximum emissions have been in place in major markets like Korea and China since about 2007, other markets still had no guidelines regarding this type of emissions yet. Fortunately, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is catching up and has issued new guidance on car interior air quality standards and testing.
“This push for regulating the interiors of a car will encourage the reduced use of materials and chemicals that can be harmful to humans and promote the use of safer emission-friendly materials instead, improving the air quality in the passenger cabin” as Molden puts it.
Due to the nature of modern markets and production techniques, similar standards followed by car manufacturers across nations would help create consistency in manufacturing while growing their market share and appeal globally, especially for manufacturers from the United Kingdom if they are to secure their most prominent market, China.
We may have to get used to odorless new cars, but the health concerns are significant enough to befit such a response.
For many, that new car smell is something they savor. It represents a foray into the new and the exciting purchase with a hint of the familiarity as we get used to inhabiting that cabin space. We may no longer be greeted by that pleasing smell when we enter a new car, but we can breathe easy knowing that the air inside isn’t trying to poison us.