Almost all cars have a certain amount of residue, but particular models can be high-level offenders. HealthyStuff.org rated the following ten vehicles as the worst culprits.
In the process of manufacturing car interiors, some serious chemicals are used. This use can leave a residue of toxins in the car's interior, some of which may be harmful. Almost all cars have a certain amount of residue, but particular models can be high-level offenders. HealthyStuff.org rated the following ten vehicles as the worst culprits.
- 1. Mitsubishi RVR/Outlander Sport
- 2. 2011 Chrysler 200 S Convertible
- 3. Kia Soul
- 4. 2011 Nissan Versa Hatchback
- 5. 2011 Mazda CX-7
- 6. 2012 Hyundai Accent
- 7. 2011 Chevrolet Aveo5
- 8. 2011 Kia Sportage
- 9. 2012 Volkwagon Eos
- 10. 2012 Mini Cooper S Clubman
The Testing Process
The Ecology Center behind HealthyStuff.org used x-ray florescence to test the entire interior of the car. This means that not only was the upholstery tested, but also the gear shift knob, the door interiors, the seat belts, the steering wheel, the center console, and more. Chemicals like bromine, lead and chlorine were the main culprits tested for, but antimony, arsenic, mercury and more were occasionally found.
Side Effects of Chemical Exposure
Chlorine is commonly used in swimming pools to kill potentially harmful bacteria. However, preliminary evidence from at least one study shows that exposure to chlorine causes DNA damage, which is a risk factor for cancer. It is also known to aggravate asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing problems (http://news.discovery.com/human/chlorinated-pools-swimming-cancer.html).
Bromine is used in cars as a flame retardant. It is also sometimes used as a substitute for chlorine, because it is chemically similar but less acutely toxic. However, long-term bromine exposure can cause systemic poisoning, which can include symptoms such as kidney and brain damage (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/bromine/basics/facts.asp).
Lead is a well-known potential toxin that people are routinely advised to keep their children away from. Children are not the only humans who can be affected by lead poisoning, however. Lead can build up in the body, so long-term exposure to low levels can be dangerous, as well as shorter-term exposure to large amounts. Once it reaches high enough levels, symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset and neurological problems will result (http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2584/).
Potential Exposure Dangers From Car Interiors
Even in the worst-offending of vehicles, however, toxin levels were well below the acutely dangerous point. The more immediate concern is that these toxins can combine with other chemicals in the environment, especially in hot environments such as car interiors, and create carcinogens. Chlorine and bromine can combine with organic material and create known carcinogenic chemicals called trihalomethanes (http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/ard/documents/ard-ehp-13.pdf).
Over 275 different chemicals were identified by the Ecology Center in new vehicles. Besides making up the distinctive odor of new car smell, these chemicals are implicated in or known risk factors for all sorts of diseases. However, little is known about the effects of these chemicals in the quantities that they are found in vehicles, which is many times less than the amounts needed to cause acute reactions (http://theweek.com/article/index/224612/is-that-new-car-smell-toxic-to-your-bodynbsp).
The Importance of Scale
While the chemical readings done on the cars by Healthystuff.org were measured in parts per million, they also created an index and gave each car a simple number for ease of use. The least toxic car was given a 0.46, while the most toxic car was given a 3.17. This represents a six-fold increase in the amount of toxins found in the most toxic car over the amount found in the least toxic car.
Unfortunately, scientists still do not know what the consequences of any exposure this small might be. Some of the compounds found in vehicles have never been studied, and those that have were tested at much, much higher doses. There are people on both sides of the argument as to whether these numbers are worth worrying about.
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