Many people may be surprised to learn that the new car smell that everyone adores is actually very dangerous. According to a new study, long drives in new cars with this odour can cause cancer. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and the Beijing Institute of Technology in China, driving a new automobile for an extended period of time may increase the risk of developing cancer, and driving for as little as 20 minutes may expose one to dangerous amounts of harmful chemicals.
Researchers investigated the air quality in new automobiles using sensors to identify various substances. The vehicles were tightly sealed and left outside for 12 days “under varying environmental conditions.” Formaldehyde, a pollutant that the US Environmental Protection Agency claims may cause cancer, was found at levels 34.9% higher than the Chinese national safety requirements in new automobiles. Acetaldehyde, a possible human carcinogen, was also found to be present at levels that were 60.5% higher than Chinese national safety standards.
The volatile organic compound mixture was discovered to contain concentrations that would be considered “high potential health risk.” The chemicals that give new cars their distinct odour posed a “significant health risk to drivers.” “Deep calculation suggests that the inhalation route plays a significant role in the risk of cancer for exposed drivers and passengers,” according to the study. Researchers also discovered that as the temperature rose, so did the concentration of compounds.
For those who are interested, formaldehyde, which was mentioned in the paper, is “a colourless, flammable gas at room temperature with a strong odour,” according to the EPA. It can be found in many everyday household items such as permanent press textiles, paints and coatings, lacquers, and finishes. Meanwhile, according to the EPA, acetaldehyde is a chemical that is used as “an intermediate in the synthesis of other chemicals” and is used to make basic colours, polyester resin, and fragrances.
This is not the first time such a study has been conducted. Experts from the University of California, Riverside stated in 2021 that driving a new car for an extended period of time could increase the risk of developing cancer, and that even driving it for as little as 20 minutes could expose one to dangerous amounts of chemicals.
The study concluded, “This study highlights the potential risk associated with benzene and formaldehyde inhalation for people who spend a significant amount of time in their vehicles.
” Furthermore, while the variability in chemical concentrations from countries with different climates may not be directly applicable to the state of California, this study serves as a starting point for future risk assessments.” “Because benzene and formaldehyde are on the Prop 65 list due to cancer and reproductive/developmental toxicity concerns, there is a need for more information on the potential association between commute time within vehicles and exposure to both of these chemicals,” the report continued.