Mmm, nothing like huffing in that sweet sweet new car smell. If they could make that into an eau du toilette pour homme, I would bathe in it daily. But, according to a new report by the Ecology Center testing over 200 of the best-selling 2011 and 2012 cars and trucks, what we know as that new car quintessence is actually a cocktail of cock-shriveling toxins. Here are the cars and trucks they claim are the "Best" and "Worst."
It's extremely important to note that the study and chart do not measure the hazard of any individual car or chemical. Just because there's a harmful chemical within the steering wheel grip it doesn't mean it's going to end up in your body. The 24,000 data point scale has been compressed to a range from 0 to 5 for ease of understanding. So while on a 0-5 danger scale for "small objects usually found around a desk" a paperclip might get a 4 and a button a 1, that doesn't mean we need to ban paperclips. Which is great, because how else am I going together all the emails I print out?
That said, the best-rated car was the 2012 Honda Civic. Overall, Honda got good marks across the board, partially due to their near-total phase out of the use of PVC. The Civic garnered a cool 0.46. At those numbers, its exhaust is practically like little Amazon Rainforest farts cleansing the air around you as you go.
The worst was the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, with a cringe-inducing 3.17. In fact, one of the effects of long-term exposure to bromine, which this car's components contain in total 114,514 parts per million, is involuntary spontaneous cringing. Just kidding, it's not. Ataxia (walking funny), papular eruptions of the face and hands, and schizophrenic-like behavior are.
The 2011 Nissan Versa also performed poorly on the test. It's got so much chlorine in it you might as well be driving around in a city pool. But hey, it's okay as long as you don't touch the arm rest, which tested at 126,387 parts per million (ppm) for chlorine, or used the door. The soft door trim had 305,150 ppm of chlorine, and 3,328 ppm of antimony in there for a spicy kick of violent and frequent vomiting, which can result if you consume antimony in a large dose.
The researchers at the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center tested 11 different components within the cars for the presence of 11 different chemicals.
They tested the arm rest/center console, carpet, steering wheel, headliner, shift knob, the back of the front seat, the front of the front seat, seat base, the soft door trim, the hard door trim and the instrument panel. The group tested for the presence of bromine, chlorine, lead, antimony, tin, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, nickel, and mercury. The higher a car's rating, the more, and more hazardous, chemicals it had.
You can search for the car you own, or are thinking of buying, or thinking of buying for your mother-in-law, over at HealthyStuff.org. Researchers recommended concerned consumers open their windows when they get in their car to ventilate them, and to use solar shields when parked. That can mitigate the amount of sun and heat entering that can interact with the components and catalyze the off-gassing process.
Take the information to be more aware about what goes into the making of a car and what you might be exposing yourself and your family to. If that's a worry, it's one more piece of data to use when comparison shopping, along with fuel-efficiency, crash safety, and thrill factor.