New Car Smell

New Car Smell

Automobiles are changing, but the 2010 models come equipped with many of the deluxe interior appointments to which we have grown accustomed: formaldehyde, naphthalene, phthalates, carbon disulfide, toluene, acetone, xylenes, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, ethylbenzene, ethylene glycol butyl ether, bromine, lead, and other heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are the components of “New Car Smell,” the treasured aroma of factory-fresh automobiles, a true American aphrodisiac.

The poisonous perfumes emanate from the adhesives, paints, vinyls and plastics inside your new car’s passenger compartment, from carpet to headliner and dashboard to rear deck, for up to six months. The fragrant fumes may cause nausea, dizziness, asthma, and allergic attacks. One reporter compares the danger to glue-sniffing.  At higher concentrations than found in car interiors, some of these chemicals are know to cause liver, nerve and kidney damage, birth defects, and cancer.

Similar toxins have been found in children’s toys, so it is no surprise they are also found in car safety seats, and (who knows) maybe in those Baby on Board signs. For more information on the in-car environment, see

Some claim that “new car smell” health warnings have been overstated, but no one denies the existence of legitimate health concerns for many vulnerable drivers and passengers. While some in the auto industry seek to discredit health risk reports, others search for ways to make less toxic cars interiors.  

Car detailers, used car sellers, and those seeking to recapture days of backseat passion use automotive aromatics, buying gallons of New Car Scent fluid  and spray (caution: do not dab these behind your ears before consulting your physician) and millions of classic car air fresheners. Perhaps the government should subsidize reseach by parfumiers, chemists, olfactory physiologists and neuroscientists, and aromatherapists to formulate a safer, authentic “New Car Scent” to stimulate lagging auto sales. For Detroit, that would be the envirnomentally-correct sweet smell of success.


Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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3 Responses to “New Car Smell”

  1. republicofhealth Says:

    Great article. It’s pretty sick people are so unhealthy they like the smell of poisons.

  2. James Says:

    Nice blogging!

    Did you know that the regualtions in USA allow for 128 times more V.O.C. toxins in autos that are allowed in Australia?

    If you like this type of data check out my new book.

    Great stuff about real aromatherapy that makes you well.
    James Geiger MD
    the oilMD

    [James Geiger, M.D. is both an anesthesiologist and certified clinical aromatherapist. – ml]

  3. Mike Licht Says:

    Dr. Geiger: Thanks for your comments and link. Let us know when someone fomulates a medically-safe ”New Car Scent.” We’ll use it as cologne to drive (groan) the ladies wild.

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