That new car smell that everyone is so fond of is actually a nasty chemical cocktail used in the construction of many of the plastics that compose an automobile interior. Three of the worst offenders are chlorine, bromine, and even lead!
Chlorine is used to make a type of plastic called polyvinyl chloride, usually referred to as PVC. The chlorine in PVC is responsible for releasing chemicals called phthalates into the environment. These phthalates have been associated with a whole host of medical conditions, including infertility and premature deliveries of babies. Phthalates have also been known to cause problems with the testes, kidneys, blood, liver, ovaries and thyroid gland. The use of PVC plastic in a car is irresponsible by the auto industry.
Automobile manufacturers use bromine to make substances called brominated flame-retardants, usually referred to as BFRs. These BFRs are used as a way to increase the fire safety of the plastics in an automobile. Unfortunately, these BFRs have been associated with many medical problems. They have been shown to lead to problems with the thyroid gland and reproductive health. There is also evidence that they can contribute to learning disabilities and memory loss.
Lead has been known to cause health problems for decades, yet it is still used as an additive in automobile plastics today. It can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys. It has also been shown to impact reproductive health and lead to learning disabilities.
One of the most disturbing chemicals used in auto part components is asbestos. Although regulated by the government in the 1980s, asbestos is still found in many cars on the road today. It was used in brake pads, hoodliners, clutch linings, gaskets and valves. Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, which is an extremely deadly form of lung cancer.
All of these chemicals found in automobiles are scary. Manufacturers need to stop using them, and consumers need to educate themselves on how to protect against unnecessary exposure.
Brian Turner is also a staff contributor to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog where he posts about the cancer risks that toxins such as asbestos pose.