35. Fatal Conveniences™: That New Car Smell: A Toxic Cocoon

35. Fatal Conveniences™: That New Car Smell: A Toxic Cocoon

The average American spends 1.5 hours a day in their car. That number may even be higher for you. Our cars, especially with the windows rolled up, become a small contained environment. The particles in the interior air of your vehicle get recycled in and out of your lungs, and your body. But what exactly are you breathing in with that new car smell?

Welcome to Fatal Conveniences

This is a bite-sized segment that parallels The Darin Olien Show. In these segments, we get into society’s Fatal Conveniences™. I define these as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to. These things save us time and trick us into thinking they’re actually good for us. But it’s those same things that are breaking down our health and the health of the environment around us.

I’ve spent most of my adult life obsessively researching these “conveniences.” On every show, I pick one topic, and we dive into it. My goal is to make you more aware of these traps so that you can push back on them. Remember, it starts with you and the choices you make. 

So, if you’re willing to look at your world from a different perspective and make little tweaks that amount to big changes, then this segment is for you.

That new car smell is actually a toxic chemical cloud.

When you open your new car door for the first time and take a deep breath in, that new car smell triggers positive thoughts. We’ve been conditioned to love that smell. Our brains associate it with success, accomplishment, and of course, a fancy new car. If you can separate your preconceived feelings about this smell, you might notice it’s actually quite gross! A new car smell is a potent mix of overpowering chemical scents that have nothing positive to offer us.

In this Fatal Conveniences™ segment, I get into the chemicals that create this potent new car smell. The main culprits are VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds. I break down what these are and the three VOCs you should be aware of as it pertains to your vehicle. I go over the harsh effects these toxins have on our health. And of course, I give you some tips on how to cut down the potency of these chemicals and how to avoid them altogether. If you spend a lot of time in your ride, you’re going to want to take a listen to this one.

  • What are VOCs?
  • What’s “car fluff,” and how does it add to that new car smell?
  • What other vehicle components contribute to that toxic scent?
  • What’s off-gassing?
  • Which car manufacturers are working to cut down on toxics in vehicles?
  • What can you do to eliminate that smell?
  • What states or countries are creating new regulations to protect us?

The Darin Olien Show is produced by the team at Must Amplify. If you’re looking to give a voice to your brand, and make sure that it’s heard by the right people, head to www.mustamplify.com/darin to see what Amplify can do for you.

Episode Transcript

Darin: It’s that time of the week for another fatal convenience. This is a bite-size segment that addresses some of society’s fatal conveniences and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of them. I define fatal conveniences as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to, tap water, shampoo, sunglasses, food. I dive into the hidden truths behind some of our everyday choices that could not only be harming us but even killing us, so let’s dive in.

Darin: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the show. Another awesome installment of Fatal Convenience. Sometimes fatal conveniences, I always try to leave on a high note. So I always like to have problem solution, alternatives, and this one’s kind of cool because industry-wide, it’s changing, and so there’s kind of an upswing. And there’s not also a clear solution that gets us out of it, and that is the new car smell. We absolutely, all of us know what that is. Isn’t it funny? It’s the same type of smell in every new car. And we make that association and those associations are powerful. So the fatal convenience is the new car smell. It’s basically called VOC’s, volatile organic compounds that are permeated through the seats, the vinyls, the leathers, the treatments, the formaldehyde, the really intense plastic that they use. And there’s a technical term called car fluff because it’s a type of plastic that’s nearly impossible in the normal standards to break down in any way to recycle because it’s so full of chemicals and it’s so hard and it’s so specific. So that car fluff is a major problem. This is volatile organic compounds. That smell is that aspect of it. And that crazy thing is because people know that they make an association that hey, this car is new when you sit in it, they actually make scent enhancers that increase that same type of smell. Now that to me is crazy. When you have those scenting tree outlines that hang off of the, I don’t know if people do that anymore, but they hang off the rearview mirror and it stinks up the whole car and it makes it smell new again when you’re sitting in a 1984 car that someone’s driving you around in, makes no sense whatsoever. And the gnarly thing is you’re just taking in more of these carcinogenic compounds. So that’s why it’s convenient. It’s like oh my god, it’s a new car. I like that smell. We love that smell. It makes this association of who knows what it does, it makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we have a new car, it makes us feel important. All of those things are the convenience and the fatality of it is it’s full of toxic compounds. So that’s where it harms us. So here’s kind of a little bit of the background around it. Again, it’s volatile organic compounds. And these are everything from the adhesives they use in the cars, the fabrics, the plastic, all the little bits and components, and how they construct that, how they process that, how they mold that. All of that stuff creates a huge amount of off-gassing that needs to escape and that’s what largely the smell is like and it gets trapped in the car. So we’ll get into some remedies for some of that as well. But unfortunately, these VOC’s, these volatile organic compounds are on this list of hazardous materials. And these are ethylbenzene, formaldehyde. Formaldehyde shows up in a lot of stuff, our clothes, our perfumes, all of this stuff, our underwear, dyes. All of these things and it’s very strong in cars. And another compound called toluene. So these are the three major ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, and toluene. These are some of the most powerful volatile organic compounds, but then they also have glues. It’s also very similar to the VOC’s. It’s in nail polish remover. Have you ever been around someone taking the nail polish off, it literally will knock your ass out, producing headaches, faint. The chemicals are so gnarly, you almost immediately get a headache and dizziness and allergic reactions and nausea. So here’s the problem with those lower grade VOC’s that are in the car but aren’t so low grade. It’s the prolonged exposure that is really creating the serious side effects and the main one is cancer. So that’s where we’re sitting in these cars, were exposed to them, and over the long term, that’s where it’s really getting to be an issue. And there was a study done in 2012 by the Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization based in Michigan, where a group looked at vehicles from 2006 to 2012 model cars and measured the presence of these various chemicals such as chlorine, lead, and other VOC’s in the interiors. And the quote by the main researcher was these chemicals in new car smells can be harmful when inhaled or ingested and may lead to severe health impacts such as birth defects. Think about these kids sitting in the back of our cars. It’s hot out with the windows rolled up and also creating and supporting the debilitation into learning disabilities in cancer. Since the average American spends about 1.5 hours a day in a car, the toxic chemical exposure inside the vehicle is becoming a major source of potential indoor air pollution that we’re sucking in every day. Another great article by the BBC also highlighted from the top director at the Ecology Center, Jeff Gearheart, he’s quoted as saying it’s definitely a chemical cocktail made of lots of toxins. So those are three that I highlighted, but there’s upwards in the hundreds. And they even say here that there are over 200 chemical compounds found in vehicles. That is crazy. So since these chemicals are not regulated, so again, ladies and gentlemen, these things are not regulated. They’re just using whatever and shoving us in this cocoon. And we’re sitting there drinking this into our lungs. So according to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure of these can lead to hormone disruption. So there’s a theme to all these chemicals, hormone disruption, almost in every fatal convenience as it relates to anything having to do with our body exposure to the stuff, it’s hormone disruption. So we wonder why we’re having depressive situations, we’re having instability in the household. And that also leads to reproductive impacts and damaging the liver. So again, that supports men’s motility going down, and women’s premenstrual cycle being more intense, and also kidney and central nervous system and even cancer-causing. So it’s not measured for long-term exposure, and this is where the experts are really freaked out over all of this stuff, and we’re sitting in these toxic soups all the time. So with the new car, keep in mind, we all love a new car. I just got a new car, and that smell is horrible, especially now that I know about it. And it’s worse for the first six months. So practice opening the car windows out when you’re not using it in your garage, or whatever and let that stuff air out. And then drive as much as you can, with your windows down in the first six months. So that you really can start to minimize that. So here’s the cool thing. In this last decade, car manufacturers definitely have been heating the word of what we’ve been saying and the VOC’s that have been tested by the Ecology Center and many other groups. But the polyvinyl chloride, which is another chemical, a new car smell was very high in 2006. And by 2012, the percentage of vehicles using polyvinyl chloride was reduced by 73%. So here’s why I’m giving a little hats off to the vehicle industry because they are making an impact. And they are also improving the ventilation systems and the filtration systems of the inside of the vehicle. And they’re also starting, which I was so surprised that the car manufacturers are using more natural soy-based materials. How cool is that? But again, everything’s processed so we have to be careful of the processed, the off-gassing of all of those things. But here’s the basic things again, is keep your interior clean, reduce dust because apparently the VOC’s can hold on to the dust particles and then it can make a bigger amount of those volatile organic compounds sticking to dust and things and then you can bring it into your body a lot easier. And also try to park your vehicle in shade. When plastic heats up, it off-gases more which is why I never leave a plastic bottle of any liquid in your car and it’s heating up and it’s basically just pouring petroleum and other chemicals into your water and the same thing as it is in the car. The hotter the car is, the more of these chemical compounds are affecting you. So I’m going to shout out to a few auto manufacturers that were brought up in this BBC article and have the show notes below. Fiat and Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Honda have all been making steps to reduce and I’m sure now since 2012, there’s a lot more advantageous better materials being used instead of some of the gnarly material coatings, adhesives, in the manufacturing. So keep putting pressure on these people. But again, the one known carcinogen has been plummeting the polyvinyl chloride, and that has gone down, like I said, over 73%, and probably a lot more at this point. And then Ford apparently is switching to using more natural fibers, soy-based foams, and its seat cushions. So I think we can push back and have eco-cars. So push back on these people and these manufacturers and then the European Union has got what’s called a regulation, evaluation, authorization, and restriction of chemical substances union, which is implementing to protecting more people in the environment from the haphazard compounds. So way to go European Union. And also China is said to be developing their own regulations to protecting more of their people. And California apparently is jumping on board to do more of the same. So right on, so it’s not all freakazoid. So definitely in the last decade, we’ve increased the awareness of and lowered the chemical contribution. So there you go. So bottom line is, ventilate your new car, try not to have it heated up, let it air out in the first six months, keep it in the shade, keep yourself healthy because then you can fight off what would normally bring down and suppress more people and overwhelm their immune system just by being exposed to more of these toxins, and drive with your windows open the best that you can. And increase and replace your in-car filtration systems. Have that looked at, have that upgraded, have that replaced, have those filters replaced, all of that stuff. And again, another reason, don’t get a new car, just take care of your one car. So there you go, I just want to raise your awareness. So now that you smell that smell, maybe the indication is okay, cool, you got a new car, but roll your windows down, don’t heat it up, don’t be in the car more than what is necessary. And when you do, keep the filtration system going, keep the windows open, and you’ll be a lot better for it. But again, keep yourself healthy, keep yourself happy, and move forward and let’s push back again, more on eliminating and lowering the toxic exposure of our daily things that were around. And so this one is the toxic soup that we’re setting in when we drive. So we have choices, we all always have choices, and we always can wake up and do more and to create more awareness. I love you all. Thanks for tuning in. And please let me know what other fatal convenience you want to hear about because as you start to become aware of these fatal conveniences, your radar will start turning on. You’re like, wait a minute, what’s in my carpet? What fire retardant is in my couch and in my bed? And what kind of fibers am I sleeping on? And believe me, we’re gonna attack all of those, but start thinking about other ones. I’ll add it to my list, and I’ll do a few more. Okay, I love you all. Thanks very much and keep happy, keep healthy, and keep charging.

Darin: Thanks for tuning in everyone. I hope that left you feeling inspired to take a closer look at the everyday choices you’re making and how they could be impacting your health and even planet. If you want to learn more about life’s fatal conveniences, head over to fatalconveniences.com. You can sign up for the exclusive access to Fatal Conveniences episodes, news, insights, and more. And all this great stuff gets sent each week straight to your inbox, making it really easy. Now, that’s a convenience without the negative side effects. It only takes a few seconds to join. Just fill in the form and take that amazing step towards making better choices. Remember, small changes can have a big impact. So, keep diving my friends, keep diving. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the interview, I released earlier on the week, here’s what you missed:

Troy Swope: I’m sitting at home and my wife’s bringing home groceries from the store specifically Costco and everything is in plastic like it’s jewelry. These apples are in jewelry and these cut pineapple spheres. So engineering curiosity, I started grabbing this food bringing it into a semiconductor environment into our labs and saying, “Tell me what’s on this food?” And I did it for a year. And so the same characteristics that was contaminating our wafer was all over the food, in most cases in far greater levels.

Darin: This episode is produced by my team at Must Amplify, an audio marketing company that specializes in giving a voice to a brand and making sure the right people hear it. If you would like or are thinking about doing a podcast or even would like a strategy session to add your voice to your brand in a powerful way, go to www.mustamplify.com/darin. That’s www.mustamplify.com/darin.

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