Is new car smell toxic?

We all know what "new car smell" means.

Most people seem just to enjoy it.

But is it possible that it can make us sick?


At least some of chemicals used in cars can be toxic, and not all of them go away even after many years. But before we can answer the question of whether the new car smell is toxic or not, we must indicate materials which our cars are made of.

Many people believe that this is the smell of leather. But only interiors of luxury cars are made of high quality materials. For example, Bentley's panels are made by hand of fine wood instead of plastic. In addition, the Bentley Motor Company exclusively appreciates Scandinavian carpets because they are grown in purity without adding iron and wire.


Rolls-Royce also smells like genuine leather. Ferrari has pleasant aroma of polished metal and dry leather. In the less expensive cars smell is like                                                                                          new curtains or a linoleum.

Moreover, Audi AG in Ingolstadt (Germany) has a "command-nose", which studies the interiors of cars and material samples. Jaguar has a similar team. Ford prefers to control the smell even at the manufacturing stage. General Motors does not have a standard test for smell.

In fact, there are a lot of different chemicals that make up the interior of the car, and some of them emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the passenger compartment. Exactly these VOCs produce new car smell, whereas some of them do not produce any smell at all. For example, ethylbenzene and formaldehyde can also be found in the composition of most paints and adhesives. They can cause problems such dizziness, headaches, allergies and even cancer when inhaled in large quantities or during a long period of time.


According to the findings from the 2012 of the Ecology Center (the USA), chemicals in new car smell could be harmful if inhaled or swallowed and can lead to such serious consequences for the health as birth defects, learning disability and even cancer. The report concentrated on the presence of bromine, chlorine, lead and other volatile organic chemicals in the car interior.



It is believed the healthiest interiors are to be found in the following cars: the 2012 Honda Civic, 2011 Toyota Prius, the 2011 Honda CR-Z, the 2011 Nissan Cube and the 2012 Acura RDX. Honda won the healthiest interiors overall. 

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, long-term effects of some of these substances in the body can lead to hormonal imbalance that affects the reproductive system negatively and causes damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.


New cars are most hazard. Smell in them is also more noticeable.

On the other hand, heating of vehicle when left in the sun even aggravates the situation and speeds up chemical reactions.

But there is a good news - the danger is weakening with the time. According to experts, the threat level is the highest during first six months.

Automakers, in particular Fiat / Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Honda, assure that they are taking steps to reduce VOCs and other toxic substances in their cars. They say they did it through using other materials, coatings and adhesives in production.

Recommendations for reducing new car smell

In order to reduce the harm from exposure to chemicals it is advisable to follow these recommendations:

  • Ventilate a new car interior as often as possible, especially during the first six months of ownership.
  • Park the car in the shade and leave windows open, if security conditions permit or at least ventilate the interior before driving, especially on hot days.
  • Do not sit in the car when it is parked.
  • Use sun shields on a windscreen to minimize heating of the car when standing.
  • Clean interior of a new car with microfiber and treat the surface with non-toxic cleaning products.
  • Use air fresheners and odor eliminators as on the video below.


Enjoy your new car and try to prevent harm                     from new car smell!


                         Live Stylish!

                        Stay Healthy!

                          Eat Organic!

                           Be Natural!

Write a comment

Comments: 14
  • #1

    Alana (Monday, 12 December 2016 00:47)

    I'm wondering how you did this study of the luxury cars. This was a fascinating blog post - tweeted.

  • #2

    Paola Lauretano (Monday, 12 December 2016 11:04)

    Very informative post, thanks for sharing!
    Kisses, Paola.

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  • #3

    anita (Monday, 12 December 2016 15:08)

    complete study, thank you for sharing
    Have a very nice week dear

  • #4

    Rowena (Monday, 12 December 2016 16:09)

    Good to know! Thanks for sharing!

  • #5

    Elena (Monday, 12 December 2016 21:51)

    Thanks a lot for sharing, I didn't know that!


  • #6

    Karen BakingInATornado (Wednesday, 14 December 2016 20:46)

    I've always loved that "new car" smell. Guess I'll have to air out any new cars from now on.

  • #7

    Maria (Wednesday, 21 December 2016 19:13)

    Nice entry!

  • #8

    Roxana (Wednesday, 21 December 2016 23:17)

    Good to know!

  • #9

    Marko (Thursday, 22 December 2016 10:49)

    Thanks for this Information.

  • #10

    Karen Austin (Tuesday, 07 February 2017 12:24)

    Wow. Now I feel even better about the fact that I buy used vehicles. An interesting read about toxins in cars.

  • #11

    David (Thursday, 29 June 2017 15:13)

    Thanks for that SHON, Real informative.

  • #12

    Lisa Isabella Russo (Sunday, 29 October 2017 21:45)

    Very interesting, thank you!

  • #13

    Zlad K. (Sunday, 11 February 2018 16:20)

    The question of off-gassing plastics and other materials is one of oxidation.

    The first and simplest method to "clean" the smell, contrary to what was suggested here, is direct sunlight and heat, easily done by parking a smelly car in the sun with a window cracked (contrary to what was suggested here about keeping the car in the shade). Sunlight also works well with smelly components that can be removed from the vehicle, such as noxious car mats. Some extremely toxic car mats, such as those in Subarus, depending upon the strength of the sunlight in your area, may take weeks to fully off-gas.

    I have had good success off-gassing rental and other toxic cars by leaving windows cracked a bit while letting the sun super-heat the interior as it does its job. Of course, it stinks more once the toxic brew is blown out VOCs are greatly diminished.

    I have a tiny bit of experience with a product (one of many) that puts out a toxic chlorine dioxide gas in order to quickly oxidize car interiors, often used in smoker's vehicles on used car lots. That leaves a temporary chlorine smell that evaporates within 24 hours or less. It does work but may not solve the worst problems, such as a used vehicle where a previous owner has routinely used air fresheners or Fabreeze and other noxious masking agents. I am familiar with NuVinAir.

    Lastly is ozonation, i.e. using an ozone machine to achieve the same effect. The problem with both chlorine dioxide and ozonation is that it is hard to know when to stop or what dose the car needs. It is possible to over-ozonate, thereby causing a bleachy smell that can linger for a very long time. So use with caution. Better to ozonate repeatedly for short periods of time rather than guessing wrong and over-ozonating.

    Good luck and happy breathing!

  • #14

    zforce (Tuesday, 03 April 2018 06:55)

    It would be much better to force auto manufacturers to end using harmful chemicals in car seats, upholstery, panels, etc. No worries about figuring out how to reduce the off gassing, which may not really stop anyway. Call them and tell them you'll keep buying used cars until they change their ways...