Study Says Car Interiors Pose Health Risks for Drivers

January 20, 2006

The Ecology Center recently presented a study (Toxic at Any Speed: Chemicals in Cars & the Need for Safe Alternatives) of the toxic chemicals used in building car interiors.

Flame retardant PBDE and phthalates, whose main use is as a softener in plastics, were included in the study. These chemical substances can migrate from plastics and textiles, particularly at high temperatures. The car’s occupants may thus be exposed to these substances, for instance through the respiratory system. Certain types of phthalates and flame retardants can for instance promote genetic mutations and can subject car occupants to health hazards.

The survey reveals that the concentrations of PBDE in dust and on the
windscreen are up to five times higher than in the homes of most people, and since many people today spend a lot of time in their cars, car interiors thus have a significant effect on human health.

The Ecology Center carried out the survey on 11 different makes of car
built between 2000 and 2005. The results show that the interiors of Volvo’s cars have the lowest emissions of phthalates. There was even reportedly a lower incidence of flame retardant PBDE in Volvo’s models than in most other cars, which according to the research institute makes Volvo a world leader in the area of interior air quality.

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