Could your car be making you sick? Most drivers only consider personal injuries when they are in a car accident that causes a brain injury, burn injury, or other serious personal injury. However, there are chemicals in your car which can be making you ill even before you turn on the engine.
Cars are made from metals, plastics, glass, and upholstery. Unfortunately, some of the products used in making cars contain toxic chemicals. In fact, the “new car smell” is created by chemicals which include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), known to be toxic. Even if you don’t drive a new car, there are chemicals in your car.
For example, most cars contain at least three types of bromine. Bromine is a naturally occurring element that is combined with other chemicals and added to the plastics in a car. It is used because when combined with other chemicals, bromine is a fire retardant. When the plastics in your car are heated they can release bromine chemicals into your air. Long-term exposure to bromine has been shown to cause behavioural problems, fertility problems, thyroid ailments, and memory loss.
Another common chemical found in many cars is chlorine. Chlorine is used in cars to make a plastic known as PVC (polyvinyl chloride). When your car is cool or very warm, PVC plastic releases substances known as phthalates, which have been linked to fertility problems, liver damage, red blood cell damage and other problems. While chlorine is a common substance and is considered safe in small amounts, its use as part of PVC plastics is troubling. PVCs have received much attention for their detrimental health effects in recent years.
Many cars also contain lead, which most people now know is very hazardous. Lead is added to many plastics in a car and when these plastics become heated, the lead is present in the interior of the car. Lead has been linked to childhood behavioural and development problems as well as brain damage, reproductive problems, and damage to the nerves, kidneys, and blood.
In addition to these chemicals, many cars also contain mercury, arsenic, chromium and other potentially harmful chemicals. Since many of these chemicals are released by having the plastics in the car heated, you can reduce your exposure to these chemicals by leaving windows in your car open for ventilation where possible. Keeping your car cabin cool is also helpful. Asking manufacturers and independent companies about ratings and chemical compositions can help, as well. There are many online listings that rate cars according to their chemical components.