DEARBORN — As spring arrives and more Americans prepare to face allergies, the new 2013 Ford Fusion can help combat common airborne and touch-based allergens, while monitoring possible irritants in areas where customers are driving or planning to visit.
Ford engineers tested more than 100 materials and components on the new Fusion and other Ford vehicles for allergy issues. Engineers avoid – or minimize – materials such as natural latex, hexavalent chromium and nickel, which can produce an allergic reaction in some people.
Components requiring allergen testing include common high-touch areas such as the seats, steering wheel, armrests, door handles and shifters.
“Allergies affect large numbers of people, so anything we can do to reduce potential allergens inside Ford vehicles we do through rigorous, controlled testing,” said Linda Schmalz, supervisor of core material engineering for Ford.
WebMD says more than half of all Americans test positive to one or more allergens. Allergies have been increasing for the past three decades across all age, gender and racial groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ford seeks to reduce the irritation of allergens — associated with seasonal weather and possibly rash-inducing materials — by rigorously testing its vehicles and installing cabin air filters that prevent airborne particles such as dust, spores, fungus and pollen from entering the vehicle.
From dust to hexavalent chromium (a chemical sometimes found in dyes, paints and plastics), natural latex to pollen, almost any material or substance can be a potential allergen. Ford testers make sure dyes and formaldehyde are strictly limited to levels that are acceptable even for clothing.
Cabin air filters improve driving comfort by reducing particle concentration, improve cleanliness and protect climate control components from particle deposits. These filters also capture soot, smog and tobacco smoke.
Because of the seamless way it works, many customers may not realize they have a cabin air filter. In most cases, the filter is accessed through the glove box. Ford dealers change the filters as part of the recommended maintenance for all vehicles.
In 2011 Ford kicked off a series of research projects for in-car health and wellness-connected services such as medical device connectivity, cloud-based health management services and mobile app integration.
In just more than a year, Ford delivered on the initial research with launch of the Sync AppLink-compatible Allergy Alert app — available on the 2013 Fusion and other new Ford vehicles — and as one of the first steps toward helping drivers take care of themselves and their passengers.
With Sync AppLink, drivers can quickly access allergy information through the Allergy Alert app. Through the app’s pollen index rating, drivers can request to hear the types of allergen conditions they are likely to encounter that may cause a flare-up in personal allergy symptoms. The app also provides a risk index for asthma, flu-cough-cold and ultraviolet rays.
Drivers can access Allergy Alert app information simply by connecting smartphones or tablets to their cars using simple voice commands, while keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
The Sync AppLink-enabled version of Allergy Alert is available for iOS devices and is a free app that can be downloaded from the App Store.