Is the new-car smell bad for your health?

The scent of a new car can be enticing in showrooms, and even intoxicating in its appeal. There's a good reason for that. That new car smell comes from an assortment of chemicals, some of which can be highly toxic.

The source of the bouquet so many buyers find appealing is in the various solvents, adhesives, plastics, rubbers and fabrics used in car construction. Many of these contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which can be deadly in sufficient quantities. Others are just bad for you.

"It's a chemical cocktail made up of lots of toxins," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director of the Ecology Center in the US state of Michigan. The Ecology Center has been monitoring and testing chemical levels in car interiors for years, and has noted some improvement. But Gearhart says there is still work to be done.

"There are over 200 chemical compounds found in vehicles," he said. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face."

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