Ask the docs: All about that new-car smell

King Features SyndicateMarch 15, 2014 

Q: I'm ready for a new car, but someone just told me that "new car smell" is actually toxic. Is that true? Should I get a used car?

DONALD F., LaGrange, Ill.

A: That was a fairly big problem in the not-so-distant past, but car manufacturers today are taking steps to make sure your new car is as clean on the inside as it is outside. Here's the health story.

In 2006, consumer watchdog groups started testing the air inside new cars. It turned out that off-gassing (evaporation of volatile chemicals) from flame retardants, adhesives, sealers, chemical softeners, lubricants, paints, carpeting and interior leather and vinyl treatments is what made up that new-car smell. They found traces of 275 different chemicals linked to thyroid hormone disruption, learning and memory impairment, and lung problems.

Since then, manufacturers have changed some of the chemicals they use in the interiors, but nothing's ever perfect. So, here are a few things you can do to play it safe.

• Look for new cars that boast voluntary certification standards for indoor air quality. Some have testing programs within their company, and others are looking to establish third-party evaluations.

• Roll down the windows when you roll out of the lot. Even if it's cold outside, do it anyway.

• If it is summertime, open the windows and let the car sit in the sun; chemicals release more toxins in the heat. Then take it for a spin with windows down and give the interior a nice cleaning with soap and water.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.

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