That New Car Smell Might Make You Sick

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A lot of people may enjoy the new car smell but scientists have been investigating whether it can be harmful to your health. Here’s what produces the smell and why it can potentially be dangerous.
View of the back of a person driving a car
The new car smell might not be as pleasant as you think

What causes the new car smell?

The interior of a new car is made up of many materials that are glossed, glued, and sealed on. Most of the materials are crafted just before they’re placed into the vehicle, and all of them go through a process called off-gassing, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Off-gassing is a way for the materials to finish processing and remove the excess gases that were trapped. This produces the new car smell. Some chemical adhesives have strong fumes that take days or weeks to finish off-gassing. These materials include volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Why is the smell considered dangerous?

VOCs like ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, and toluene are some of the most hazardous. In small amounts, these chemicals aren’t life-threatening. However, long-term exposure can lead to serious health issues.
VOCs in small amounts can induce headaches, nausea, dizziness, and allergic reactions. Similar VOCs are found in things like paint, glue, and nail polish remover. When you paint a room, you typically try to keep it ventilated so you don’t inhale the chemicals. However, vehicles tend to sit with no ventilation, causing the gases to build up.
Long-term exposure to the chemicals can lead to birth defects, learning disabilities, and cancer. However, there’s no definite answer to the exposure level in a new car. Most people spend roughly an hour and a half commuting in their vehicle with the AC on or windows down. Both can help keep the vehicle well-ventilated.
It’s not clear whether the materials in a new car can pose a real threat, but automakers have started to use materials with fewer VOCs.

How to get rid of the new car smell

The simplest way to reduce potential exposure to these chemicals is to keep the interior ventilated. If possible, park the vehicle in the garage and leave the windows down.
You can also try different odor control agents like white vinegar and a box of baking soda. Having a professional detailing company clean your car during the first few months can help you get rid of the smell as well. Just running a rag over the interior surfaces will help keep your car free of dust which can hold on to VOCs.

Other ways to make your car smell nice

If you love the new car smell, there are many options to recreate it without the risk of harmful effects. There are air fresheners, sprays, and cleaning products that are meant to replicate the smell.
Driving off with a new car should still be a great experience. If you want to save money on car insurance on a new car, Jerry can help. The free AI-powered app compares rates from over 50 companies, so you know which is best for the coverage you need.

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