Hopefully your next car will fix itself and run on garbage, but even if you can’t achieve those worthy goals, you can still enjoy that wonderful “new car smell.” But is it toxic?

That distinctive scent is made up of the newly-minted metal, leather, upholstery and plastic that brand-new cars are made of. Some people have postulated that there?s even a “new car smell” spray that dealers use inside cars to entice us. In LiveScience.com, Charles Q. Choi says that we’re smelling what are called “volatile organic compounds.”

German toxicologist Jeroen Buters knows that volatile compounds are activated in heat?usually the sunshine absorbed by a parked car. Buters mimicked this by placing a new car and a three-year-old car under 14,000 watts of light, which brought their internal temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. He then collected air molecules from the interiors of both cars.

Next he exposed human, mouse and hamster cells grown in petri dishes to these air molecules. The conclusion: although “new car smell” might cause a reaction from someone with allergies, the smell is not toxic. But here’s the puzzle: Choi quotes Buters as saying, “If you had the concentration of volatile organic compounds in the air of new buildings that you had in new motor vehicles, you would immediately get sent home out of fear of ‘sick building syndrome.'” He thinks this has to do with the fact that people are HAPPY to be in new cars and says, “There’s a big discussion over whether sick building syndrome is real or not. We do know that in sick building syndrome, mindset is important. People are generally happier entering new cars than new workplaces.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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