Study ranks most toxic cars on the market

"New car smell" can be hazardous to your health. Find out if your car contains the toxic chemicals in question.

After buying a vehicle, do you attempt to maintain that precious “new car smell” for as long as possible? If so, you might want to rethink your ways.

According to a new study from the Ecology Center, the beloved smell is actually the scent of toxic chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Used to make plastics flexible and interiors fire-proof, the chemicals are often associated with allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.

The study, published on earlier this week, ranks the most and least toxic cars of the year. Researchers tested over 200 popular 2011- and 2012-model vehicles for chemicals that off-gas from car parts such as the steering wheel and dashboard.

"Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center in a press release. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face.”

So which cars contain the least chemicals? The Honda Civic took the number one spot on the list as it uses PVC-free fabric and trim and contains no bromine-based flame retardants in its interior. The Toyota Prius and the Honda CR-Z came in at second and third place respectively.

The Mitsubishi Outlander was ranked the worst pick of the year followed by the Chrysler 200 SC and the Kia Soul.

Things are looking up, however. Overall vehicle rankings have quickly improved since 2006 when 0 percent of cars were PVC-free. Today, that number is at 17 percent and the majority (60 percent) of new cars are made without BFRs in their interiors.


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