The Cult of Cars, Racing and Everything That Moves You.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

That New Car Smell Might Be Killing You

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

We all know that new car smell, that combination of plastic, leather, and something else that we can't figure out. It's the smell of success! You have purchased a new car, but those fumes may be negatively impacting your health.

Lyndon Conrad Bell has covered the auto industry for 16 years, his most recent post illustrates how your new car is essentially a "storage tank" for potentially harmful gasses.


"New-car smell is the odor of new interior materials such as soft plastics, upholstery and adhesives. Sometimes referred to with the scary-sounding term 'outgassing,' these odors are nearly unavoidable in new products." - Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor at


Bell goes on to explain that this "outgassing" should raise some concerns because so much of it happens you can see it on the haze of your windows. When you are in your car you are in such close proximity to these fumes you have no choice but to breathe them in.

As to whether or not these gasses are actually toxic to your system, a study published in Science of the Total Environment found low concentrations of toxicity in lab conditions. However, during the first six months of a car's life the interior materials could emit more fumes than are recommended for indoor exposure. As we know from basic chemistry, heat can intensify the effects of these fumes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the air inside an automobile can climb to 172 degrees Fahrenheit even when the temperature outside is only in the 80- to 100-degree range.

Such a superheated environment can cause interior components harboring volatile organic compounds to outgas more dramatically. As a precaution, you should immediately lower the windows after getting into a car on a very hot day. And run the air conditioner to cycle in fresh air.

So the last thing I wanted to do today is give my buddy Tavarish another reason why people shouldn't buy new cars, but you should be aware of the effects of these chemicals so you can take the necessary precautions.

If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at and be sure to include your Kinja handle.