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08Feb2014

Air Conditioning Rumor

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It’s an internet rumor that a lot of us have received. In fact, I actually had it recently dropped in my own inbox.
The subject line was ominous, to be sure—and it goes like this:

CAR AIR-CONDITIONING – VERY IMPORTANT!

Please do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car.

Open the windows after you enter your car and then turn ON the AC after a couple of minutes.

Here’s why: According to research, the car dashboard, seats and air freshener emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin (carcinogen – take time to observe the smell of heated plastic in your car).

In addition to causing cancer, Benzene poisons your bones, causes anemia and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure will cause Leukemia, increasing the risk of cancer. Can also cause miscarriage.
Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidney and liver.. What’s worse, it is extremely difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff.

So friends, please open the windows and door of your car – give time for interior to air out -dispel the deadly stuff – before you enter.


So…is this true? Is there any way we are at a REAL risk??

I love this kind of stuff! Certainly, there is nothing as wonderful as sitting behind the wheel of a shiny new car and taking a big whiff of that famous smell. Like many people, I am willing to pay big bucks for a new car every few years, just to experience the wondrous odor. But that sexy scent is probably more arbitrary than anyone would imagine. And it is VERY unlikely that any REAL adverse health risks can be quantified.

Most likely, what we are all smelling is the odor emitted by certain plastics and adhesives inside the car. I did some basic research and stumbled upon an analysis published by New Jersey-based Scientific Instrument Services Inc. published article “Identification Of Volatile Organic Compounds In a New Automobile,” authors Santford V. Overton and John J. Manura evaluated the new car smell of a then brand new car.

Their results were interesting – and a little technical:
“The contamination of indoor air (with respect to the Lincoln) is caused by emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from a variety of sources, including fabrics, upholstery, carpets, adhesives, paints, cleaning materials as well as from exhaust fumes outside the vehicle. Potential health risks exist due to the toxic nature of many of these components. Individually, the contribution from any one product may not be significant, but the cumulative levels of emissions from these products are increasingly becoming a major concern.

“Because many of the volatile emissions and by-products from these products are toxic, additional knowledge of the levels of these organic compounds in the car’s interior is required in order to determine human health impacts. Analytical techniques are needed to identify and quantitate VOCs present in these areas to help identify potential health risks. Further studies will also be required to determine the sources of the air contamination. If manufacturing processes are contributing to poor air quality, then the manufacturing processes will need to be improved to limit the emission of VOCs.”
That great smell is actually bad for us? I spoke to an engineer source at one of the major automakers about this, and he was skeptical that these VOCs were present in large enough quantities to pose a significant health risk. He also said he was not aware of automakers doing anything underhanded with respect to that new car smell. His take was that the smell is mostly the result of all the freshly installed materials in a new car, which is why the smell eventually fades.

However, for those who have sensitivity to these types or volatile organic compounds, it might be wise to always circulate some fresh air through your car, especially when it’s new. Exchanging inside air at a frequent rate is a good way to help reduce your exposure.

As for me, I think I’ll keep the windows up and continue to breathe deeply. I can’t help it, but I find that new car smell better than the best perfume sold in Paris. Then again, I also love to sniff a new shower curtain. Go figure.