Are you sure you want that new car smell to last? Characterization of VOCs from new car smell

For many, the added bonus of buying a new car is its smell, an odour mostly appreciated by many, especially the proud owner. However, the increase in chemical sensitivity and the awareness in chemical exposures have led to a closer look at what are behind this smell.

The odour, not surprisingly, comprises a great variety of volatile organic compounds (VOC), arising from adhesives, plastics, carpets, cleaners, polishes, lubricants, paints, leather and vinyl treatment. Currently, there is no government standard regulating air quality inside new vehicles.

Although the VOC concentrations are not very high in new vehicles, the cumulative effects of these compounds can pose health problems to those with chemical sensitivity and with long term exposure especially in summer months when the heat vaporizes more VOCs into the close car interior.
Below is the summary of unique VOC detected in a new car with leather interior, one week from delivery:

No.IdentificationPossible Sources
1Ethanol, 2-butoxy-Coatings, cleaners
2Acetic acidCleaners, adhesives
3EthanolVarnishes, cleaners, fuel additive
42-Pyrrolidinone, 1-methyl-Paint strippers, polishes and adhesives.
5Benzyl AlcoholLacquer, coating, degreasing agent, paint stripper
61-Hexanol, 2-ethyl-Plasticizers, fuel and lube additives, carpets, plastics
7Azobis[isobutyronitrile]Blowing agent in the production of vinyl foam
8Propylene GlycolAntifreeze coolants, heat transfer fluids, plasticizers,
9Ethanol, 2-(2-butoxyethoxy)-Coatings, hydraulic brake fluid, cleaners
10PhenolPlastics, adhesives
11Formamide, N,N-dimethyl-Synthetic leather, adhesives
121-ButanolCleaners, stain removers, plasticizers, coatings
13Dimethyl glutaratePaint stripper, automotive coatings, plasticizers
14Methyl Isobutyl KetoneLacquers, varnishes, car and industrial spray paints
153-Methoxy-3-methylbutanolPaint, detergents, cleaners
16AcetoneLacquers for automotive, coatings
17Butylated HydroxytolueneAntioxidant for plastics
18BenzothiazoleRubber products, tires
19Methyl Ethyl KetonePaints and coatings
20StyreneStyrene-butadiene rubber
21Dimethyl succinatePaint stripper, automotive coatings, plasticizers
22Triethyl PhosphatePlasticizers, flame retardants
232-Ethylhexyl acrylatepressure sensitive adhesives, plastics, paints
24Phenol, 4-chloro-3-methyl-Metal working fluids, preservative for glues, paints, textile & leather goods
254-Phenylcyclohexene (4-PC)Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR)-backed carpets