FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- January 11, 2006
High Levels of Toxic Chemicals Found in Car
Interiors, New Study Says
Sun's Heat and UV Light Exacerbate Toxicity Inside
Vehicles, Putting Drivers and Passengers at Risk
Volvo Found to be Least Toxic Car Demonstrating Feasibility of
Safe Alternatives; Other Companies Urged to Follow Suit
Group: 'New car smell' includes toxins
Environmental group contends drivers, passengers are
breathing dangerous chemicals found in car interiors; calls for new regs.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - A Michigan environmental group is charging that
at least part of the so-called "new car smell" is toxic, and that the
interior of an automobile has dangerous levels of various chemicals.
The report, "Toxic at any speed," comes from The Ecology Center, an Ann
Arbor, Mich.-based group. It reports that PBDEs, used as fire retardants,
and phthalates, used primarily to soften PVC plastics, are found in
dangerous amounts in dust a! nd windshield film samples. http://www.ecocenter.org/ecoride/sponsors2004.shtml
It called for tougher regulations to phase out the use of the chemicals as
well as voluntary moves by the auto manufacturers to stop using the products
inside of new vehicles.
It also suggested that car owners take steps to reduce the release and
breakdown of these chemicals by using solar reflectors, ventilating car
interiors, and parking outside of sunlight whenever possible.
The group says that phthalates are partly responsible for the smell
associated with new cars.
Drivers and passengers are exposed to these chemicals through inhalation and
contact with dust, according to the group's report.
"These groups of chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired
learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory
animals, among other serious health problems," according to the report.
"We can no longer rely just on seatbelts and airbags to keep us safe ! in
cars," said a statement from Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's Clean Car
Campaign Director who co-authored the report. "Our research shows that autos
are chemical reactors, releasing toxins before we even turn on the ignition.
There are safer alternatives to these chemicals, and innovative companies
that develop them first will likely be rewarded by consumers."
The group found Volvo was found to have the lowest levels of phthalates and
the second-lowest levels of PBDEs, which it said made the
Ford Motor Co. (Research)-owned
unit the industry leader in terms of indoor air quality. Volvo also has the
toughest policies for phasing out these chemicals.
Other auto manufacturers had more mixed records on the two types of
chemicals, according to the group's survey. For example, Korean auto
manufacturer Hyund! ai had the lowest level of PBDEs, but the highest level
The group said it was told by Ford officials that the auto manufacturer has
eliminated PBDEs from "interior components that customers may come into
contact with." Ford had among the lowest level of PBDEs in its vehicles, and
General Motors (Research)
and BMW vehicles also had lower-than-average levels for all chemicals
tested. But Mercedes, Chrysler, Toyota and Subaru had higher-than-average
levels of both PBDEs and phthalates.
In response to the study, one industry group defended the use of PBDEs as an
important contributor to vehicle safety.
he Bromine Science and Environmental Forum said in a statement that PBDEs
known as Deca-BDE have been extensively studied in the U.S. and Europe --
including a 10-year-long risk assessment -- and found to be safe for
"If automobile manufacturers follow the guidance in the report, it could
result in lowering fire safety for the public, as well as promoting the use
of unidentified alternative substances about which very little may be
known," said the group's statement. It said it is crucial that autos have
the best possible flame retardants available in case of accidents.
"In 2004 alone, there were approximately 297,000 car fires in the United
States, leading to 550 deaths. If effective flame retardants were not used,
this number would certainly be higher," the group's statement said.
Auto manufacturers have already agreed to phase out two of the three
flame-retardant chemicals cited in the report, Eron Shosteck, a spokesman
for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told the Detroit News.
The remaining chemical has been studied by the European Union for 10 years
and has been proven safe, S! hosteck said.
The report was released Jan. 11 during the North American International Auto
Show in Detroit, but it received little attention outside of Michigan.
Looks like Betty' supreme (and my little by comparison) efforts with the FDA
Petition started something big. It's about time this information is coming
forth in a big way.
After we found phthalates in perfumes, through our two laboratory analyses
of perfumed products, which became the basis of EHN's FDA Citizens'
Petition 99P-1340, Betty and I started writing far and wide that phthalates
were an important component of fragrances -- they help make the scent last
-- and folks should look beyond just plastics for phthalates. I believe that
one can do a pretty good job of avoiding phthalates to a large extent by
avoiding plastics -- of course, some will always get you because they are
pervasive. BUT, fragrances are ubiquitous and they affect you from the
products used by others. When fabric softeners waft unbidden throughout an
entire neighborhood, when you work with or receive healthcare from someone
who is wearing fragrances, you are breathing in those toxins. They become
one with you.
We GET IT, when will the FDA? When they hear from enough people, they may
start to get it. In the meantime, while there are some good, conscientious
folks with the FDA, the agency as a whole, appears to bend to industry.
PHARMACEUTICAL and flavors and fragrances . . . and remember,
pharmaceuticals own fragrances. What an economic boom for them. Products to
make people sick, products to help them keep going . . . for a little while.
Then they die one of the premature deaths associated with prescribed
medicines or they suffer iatrogenic illnesses and disabilities, or they've
gone into MCS and realize their bodies can't handle drugs. (My version.)
The Ugly Side of Beauty Products
In recent decades reproductive and
developmental problems have become more prevalent--for example, data from
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that male
reproductive problems, including undescended testicles and hypospadias,
doubled between 1970 and 1993. Environmental chemicals are strongly
suspected to be contributing factors. Several recent reports highlight the
presence of low-level concentrations of potential reproductive or
developmental toxicants, particularly phthalates, in cosmetics and
personal care products. A key question is whether these exposures are
significant enough to cause harm. ... [Emphasis added to
"particularly phthalates" - noting just in case it doesn't come across email
systems to you.]http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2005/113-1/forum.html