Don't Worry, That New Car Smell is Just Toxic

Love that new car smell? You might want to think again. U.S. environmental group Ecology Center has tested the interiors of 200 new cars and found that intoxicating scent to be a sign of toxic chemicals.

The Michigan-based group tested 2006 and 2007 models for chlorine, bromine, arsenic, lead and a few other choice offenders that they point out can lead to serious health affects such as learning disabilities, cancer and birth defects if they're inhaled or ingested. More noticeably for some people they'll just present themselves as an irritant.

The best and worst 

The good news is, if you're in the market for a new vehicle and want to find out which one has the lowest level of chemicals, the group has come up with a five point rating system. You can search a specific model or comparison shop between a few. The worst offenders are the Nissan Versa (5), Chevy Aveo and Kia Rio, with ratings above four. The Chevy Cobalt, PT Cruiser and Volvo V50 rank best with the least concerning levels. While you're at it, you can take the 12 greenest vehicles of 2007 and see where they fall on the toxic list.

Some companies, like Volvo, have already targeted the issue of chemicals in their car interiors and control the use of certain compounds. The center is hoping more will follow suit, as the chemicals aren't required in interior manufacturing.

What to do if you already bought a toxic car 

If you just bought a Versa and are more than a little concerned, the Ecology Center says solar reflectors in the windshield can slow the release of chemicals, which rises when heat and UV rays hit interior components. Leaving the window open for a few minutes before your drive can also help. And of course walking or biking to your destination.

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