Blog: What's Really In That New-Car Smell?
Find out how the infamous new-car smell has changed over the years, what makes it smell that way and what experts say it can do to our health.Playlist
Seriously, can we please delete the following phrase from the English language: “I love new-car smell!”?
I could understand the sentiment back in the day when cars were made from welded metal and chrome; and lovingly finished off with burled wood, lambs wool carpeting, and buttery soft leather. I mean, the aroma of new leather – with a dash of lanolin and fresh varnish is distinctively divine.
But today’s new-car smell is a toxic mishmash of plastic, rubber and glue all happily spewing out VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, and other stinky chemicals. In fact, the last time I bought a car, the air inside was so eye-wateringly pungent, that I had to drive with the windows open for almost two weeks – even though it was December, and raining. And it was still faintly stinky for a long time after that.
I know I’m not an incense, scented candle, air freshener, or perfume kind of gal. But this was really bad. So bad, I was surprised it’s legal for the inside of a car to smell so toxic. Experts believe the smell comes from phthalates, softeners used in plastic manufacturing. Phthalates release a gas that's suspected of causing kidney and liver damage and other health problems. It seeps out and collects on the inside of your windshield over time, which is why that "new car smell" seems to last.
So, I found it incredibly amusing when, maybe a month later, an acquaintance bought the exact same make and model car – without leather seats. And she kept going on and on about how much she loved the new-car smell.
Wow. She actually loved the smell of new plastic, rubber and glue! I never was able to figure out whether she was reminiscing, brainwashed, or simply high on toxic fumes. Or maybe it’s just me and that new-car smell really is an awesome fragrance, but somehow I’m just missing the boat.