Are you sure you want that new car smell to last?

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Characterization of VOCs from new car smell

Car InteriorFor 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:

Identification Possible Sources
Ethanol, 2-butoxy- Coatings, cleaners
Acetic acid Cleaners, adhesives
Ethanol Varnishes, cleaners, fuel additive
2-Pyrrolidinone, 1-methyl- Paint strippers, polishes and adhesives.
Benzyl Alcohol Lacquer, coating, degreasing agent, paint stripper
1-Hexanol, 2-ethyl- Plasticizers,  fuel and lube additives, carpets, plastics.
Azobis[isobutyronitrile Blowing agent in the production of vinyl foam
Propylene Glycol Antifreeze coolants, heat transfer fluids, plasticizers,
Ethanol, 2-(2-butoxyethoxy)- Coatings, hydraulic brake fluid, cleaners
Phenol Plastics, adhesives
Formamide, N,N-dimethyl- Synthetic leather, adhesives
1-Butanol Cleaners, stain removers, plasticizers, coatings
Dimethyl glutarate Paint stripper, automotive coatings, plasticizers
Methyl Isobutyl Ketone Lacquers, varnishes, car and industrial spray paints
3-Methoxy-3-methylbutanol Paint, detergents, cleaners
Acetone Lacquers for automotive, coatings
Butylated Hydroxytoluene Antioxidant for plastics
Benzothiazole Rubber products, tires
Methyl Ethyl Ketone Paints and coatings
Styrene Styrene-butadiene rubber
Dimethyl succinate Paint stripper, automotive coatings, plasticizers
Triethyl Phosphate Plasticizers, flame retardants
2-Ethylhexyl acrylate pressure sensitive adhesives, plastics, paints
Phenol, 4-chloro-3-methyl- Metal working fluids, preservative for glues, paints, textile & leather goods
4-Phenylcyclohexene (4-PC) Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR)-backed carpets