Is Your Car’s Interior Making You Sick?

Is Your Car's Interior Making You Sick?Most of us can agree that the smell of a brand-new car is intoxicating. What is it about that smell that so many of us love? Some manufacturers have even made air fresheners that carry that same “new car” fragrance, so we can forever feel like our car just rolled off the assembly line. But before you bask in the aroma a minute longer, you may want to ponder on this question. Is your car’s interior making you sick?

Here at Steve’s Detailing, we know all too well the hidden dangers of a new interior. We will neutralize these threats using tried, tested, and true products and help you eliminate these toxic smells that could be making you sick.

The following toxic chemicals found in your interiors and the air inside your cars may sound foreign and confusing, but they are important to note. Some of these toxins are exceeding levels well above air quality standards. Believe it or not, more than 275 different chemicals are used in car interiors. Some of these chemicals are even worse than the well know “toxic building” syndrome that has surfaced in the news. It is little wonder we are a nation of ill human beings, suffering from unnecessary diseases.

  • VOCs, including benzene, styrene, and formaldehyde
  • Brominated flame retardants
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Lead and heavy metals
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen oxide
  • Ozone

What are these toxic substances really doing to our bodies? Well, for starters, fire retardants, which are in all interiors are linked to cancers, autism, obesity, and male infertility. PVC plastic is probably the worst plastic out there and is harmful to pregnant women, babies, and can disrupt the endocrine system. It seems hard to believe, but the facts are real and rather disturbing. Of course, not everyone will be affected in the same way, but people with respiratory issues or chemical sensitivities will be at the most risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has a lot of useful information about this subject, and worth the read.

To remedy the situation as best you can, the easiest solution is to get some air flow in your vehicle. Open all the vents and windows to help dilute the concentration of odors and have a good filtration system. Of course, the other option is to remove the source of the smells, but for obvious reasons, that will not always be possible, especially in a new car. You can, however, do your research when buying a new car to see which makes and models use the best environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques. In one study of over 200 vehicles tested for chemicals that “off-gas” from 2011-2012, the Honda Civic came out on top. The worst, Mini Cooper, VW Eos, Kia Sportage, Chevy Aveo 5, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Mazda CX-7, Kia Soul, Chrysler 200 SC, and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

If you do opt for buying a brand-new car, why not “bake” it? What does that mean? Well, you can speed up the release of chemicals by “baking them out.” This process either involves leaving the vehicle in the hot sun with the windows down or cranking the heater on for a while. Afterward, open all the windows and doors and ventilate with fresh air. From here you can grab a microfiber cloth and start wiping down the entire interior, being careful to pick up all the dust and debris. If you are super sensitive to chemicals, you may want to repeat this process a few times. The first six months with a new car are the most toxic, so perhaps wait it out if you can before making a purchase.

Let’s not forget about the mold factor too. If you are buying a used car, there is a good possibility it has mold lurking in it due to moisture, especially in warmer humid climates. But it is not just hiding in the seats; a common problem is faulty air conditioners. Be sure to have yours checked out and read up on the Lemon Law to see if the manufacturer will buy the car back if affected with mold. Also, ensure that bacteria from food, animals, and dirt are not lurking in the crevices. It is so important to keep a clean vehicle. In the meantime, here are some great tips to follow:

  • CLEAN THE INSIDE OFTEN, microfiber clothes are the best, just wet and wipe, no need for chemical cleaners.
  • REPLACE YOUR TOXIC AIR FRESHENERS with natural ones such as essential oils on cotton or in a diffuser, or baking soda.
  • CAR AIR PURIFIERS are excellent, especially if you have respiratory issues or wish to breathe cleaner air
  • REPLACE YOUR WINDSHIELD WIPER FLUID if you are sensitive to it. Vinegar and water with a tad of liquid soap works great.
  • KEEP YOUR DISTANCE of at least three car lengths to avoid exhaust fumes from entering your vehicle.
  • DON’T KEEP YOUR VENTS CLOSED always because bacteria will build up. Be sure to open and close often.
  • DO NOT IDLE CAR in the garage. Carbon monoxide exposure can cause headaches and even be fatal.
  • AIR OUT your vehicle whenever possible, winter and summer.

Japan is leading the countries in trying to eliminate this toxic cocktail in vehicles by cutting out 13 of the compounds in interiors, including formaldehyde and styrene. Hopefully, the U.S. will catch on and join the bandwagon on making America’s vehicles safer for everyone. Ford is also on their way to improvements, and it won’t be an easy transition, but it is a necessary one. And just imagine all those chemicals sitting in the hot sun, this is extremely dangerous because it adds fuel to the fire, so to speak, heating up these already toxic materials to even stronger levels with the solar exposures. Use solar reflectors whenever possible and park in the shade when you can.

Japan and Europe are putting their best face forward and are ahead of the toxic car syndrome in many ways. We are even starting to see significant organic changes in interiors such as car seats made from raw materials like palm and soybean oils, plant-based foams, and plastics made from petrochemicals, and even the hibiscus tree and a particular type of grass utilized in today’s vehicle interiors. The technology is incredible and exciting, to say the least, and it is something everyone will be pleased with in the long run.

At Steve’s Detailing, we will do our best to ensure your car’s interior is not making you sick. With years in the industry as a trusted and knowledgeable vehicle detailing shop, we know what it takes to provide our clients with safe products and the added experience to eliminate or reduce the toxic overload your car may be emitting. Ask us today how we can help you know, is your car’s interior making you sick. If your vehicle is on a weekly or monthly detailing regimen, there is no doubt that your exposure to toxic materials will decrease or be eliminated. Steve’s Detailing can get the job done with superior expertise.