Sick Car Syndrome

Ever wonder what that new car smell is?

Some people feel sick, some people are addicted to it, and for some it causes depression and tiredness – the air inside your car can be a toxic soup!baby in car seat

More than 275 different chemicals are used in the interiors of cars. These include bromine from brominated flame retardants (BFRs) which are added to plastics to make them less flammable, chlorine used for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used for plastics and windshields, lead, and heavy metals. BFR exposure has been tied to thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, and behavioural changes while PVCs which contain chemicals called phthalates are linked to decreased fertility, and problems with the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood.

The World Health Organization has recognised interior air pollution of vehicles are a major threat to human health1 listing such compounds as, polybrominated diphenylesthers (PBDEs) and other brominated flame retardants (BFRs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalate plasticizers, hydrocarbons and particulate matter2. Among the common VOCs found in vehicles benzene, ehtybenzene and styrene are all known or suspected carcinogens3. Most exposure to these compounds is through ingestion of contaminated dust, and inhalation of dust, gases and vapours. All of these pollutants have been studied in detail and produce unique human health effects.

The first report of its kind by the Ecology Center — Toxic at Any Speed: Chemicals in Cars and the Need for Safe Alternatives — found significantly higher levels of PBDEs in vehicle dust and windscreen wiper samples than those found in homes and offices in previous studies.

The Ecology Center tested approximately 900 of the most popular vehicles in the U.S. market between model years 2006-2012. They ranked Honda as the top manufacturer for healthy car interiors with the Civic and CR-Z being in their top 3 ranking in 2012. (Hyundai-Kia has been the lowest ranked manufacturer for the last two years.) The Civic achieved its ranking by being free of bromine-based flame retardants in all interior components, utilizing PVC-free interior fabrics and interior trim, and low levels of heavy metals and other metal allergens.

Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are widely used in vehicles and children's car seats, added to materials to both inhibit their ignition and slow their rate of combustion. Commonly used examples include polybrominateddiphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), as well as brominated polymeric and oligomeric materials. Worryingly heat and ultraviolet light can cause bromines and other chemicals to break down into new compounds. One common bromated flame retardant, deca-brominated diphenyl ether (decaBDE), can break down into pentaBDE and octaBDE, two chemicals potentially more threatening than the sum of their parts.rush hour

It’s not just people

The same chemicals that may cause human health problems due to exposure inside vehicles can also cause problems in the general environment. When vehicles are discarded at the end of their life, the majority of plastic and other non-metallic parts are shredded and put into landfills or burned in incinerators. When discarded in landfills, harmful chemicals contained in vehicle plastics and other materials can leach out and contaminate soil and water. When incinerated, toxic chemicals are dispersed throughout the atmosphere.

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1. Chen, Xiaokai, Guoqiang Zhang, and Hong Chen. “Controlling Strategies and Technologies of Volatile Organic Compounds Pollution in Interior Air of Cars.” International Conference on Digital Manufacturing and Automation. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer, 2012. 450-453.

2. Muller, Daniel, Doris Klingelhofer, Stefanie Uibel, and David A. Groneberg. “Car Indoor Air Pollution - Analysis of Potential Sources.” Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 6, no. 33 (2011).

3. Geiss, Otmar, Salvatore Tirendi, Josefa Barrero-Moreno, and Dimitrios Kotzias. “Investigation of Volatile Organic Compounds and Phthalates in the Cabin of Used Private Cars.” Environment International 35 (2009): 1188- 1195.

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Ecology Center's 2011-2012  Guide to New Vehicles download here:

More information from: www.Healthy