ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – Many people say they love that new car smell, but researchers at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor say it could be making you sick.

The study tested over 200 of the most popular 2011- and 2012-model vehicles for chemicals that off-gas from parts such as the steering wheel, dashboard, armrests and seats.

Chemicals of primary concern include: bromine (associated with brominated  flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC); lead; and heavy metals.

Researchers say the chemicals contribute to that “new car smell” and a variety of acute and long-term health concerns, including allergies, birth defects and liver toxicity.

Director Jeff Gearhart said cars with the healthiest interiors are the Honda Civic, Toyota Prius and Honda CR-Z.

“Since we first started testing in 2006, we’ve seen an improvement on average in the vehicles that are in the market. So, we know there is a trend toward healthier interiors, but what we really want to see is to see that accelerated,” said Gearhart.

The worst models were the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Chrysler 200 SC and Kia Soul. Gearhart said they want manufacturers to keep working toward healthier interiors.

“Start certifying those vehicle to independent third-party standards so that consumers know when they’re shopping for a vehicle that it has a healthy interior,” said Gearhart.

Where does your car rank? Visit to search for your make and model.

Comments (10)
  1. Ron Lechner says:

    This article should also state that the “New Car Smell” is what causes that layer on the inside glass that we had previously attributed to smoking.

  2. Carole W. says:

    You’re only in your car an hour or two a day. What do you think you’re breathing in at your home, office, workplace? Your car is the least of your worries.

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