Many people relish that 'new car smell'. Slipping into the driver's seat of a new vehicle and inhaling deeply seems to bring a special brand of delight to many a driver. However, several studies now show that enjoying that scent is not too dissimilar to sniffing glue or huffing paint.

Most of the pieces and parts of your car’s interior are made with plastics, vinyl or leather and stuck together with adhesives. Carpet, dashboards, consoles, flame retardants used on fabric seats and even that pine tree air freshener all leach toxic fumes in a process called outgassing.

With the rising temperatures of summer, outgassing becomes increasingly problematic. When you trap these synthetic materials in the confined, unventilated space of a car interior, then add heat, outgassing increases and toxic fumes rapidly build up to unsafe levels.

If you then jump in the car and crank the air conditioning without first pulling down the windows, you are inhaling those concentrated vapors and putting your health at risk.

Some of the most offensive chemicals that comprise that new car smell are:
• Styrene. This suspected carcinogen can affect the central nervous system and cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness and difficulty in concentrating.
• Phthalates (and other plasticizers). These chemicals are used to make plastic more durable and flexible. They tend to outgas more with age and exposure to UV radiation. Links have been drawn between phthalates and breast cancer, hormone imbalances, asthma, autism and obesity. Some phthalates have already been banned.
• PVC. This plastic is one of the main culprits in the creation of that impossible-to-clean, hazy film on your windshield. It also outgasses more with age and can cause the same health issues as phthalates, as they are used in the manufacture of PVC.
• Benzene. This is arguably one of the most dangerous of all VOC’s (see definition below). Diseases related to benzene exposure include leukemia (especially acute myelogenous leukemia), multiple myeloma, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and aplastic anemia. The Glass Study (2003) showed an increased risk of leukemia even with “safe” levels of benzene exposure. The World Health Organization states that no amount of exposure can be considered healthy.
• VOC’s (such as formaldehyde and benzene). Volatile Organic Compounds outgas more right after manufacture and taper off with time. Long-term exposure to VOC’s can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Short-term exposure can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, fatigue, loss of coordination, allergic skin reactions, nausea and memory impairment. The highest concentrations of VOC’s emitted by car interiors outgas within 6 months of manufacture. After that, levels of toxins tend to drop off; that is, until the PVC and phthalates begin to outgas increasingly with age.

As some of these toxic chemicals outgas more with age, even 'old car smell' can be hazardous to your health. Though few studies have been done to quantify the exact concentration of dangerous chemicals in vehicle interiors, it is wise to reduce your exposure now rather than wait for the scientists to tell you to do so. Whether your ride is brand new or on its last leg, remember to ventilate the interior whenever possible to reduce your chemical exposure.

Get in the habit of periodically putting down your windows while driving to air out exhaust fumes and vapor buildup from the vehicle interior. If you have a secure garage, leave your windows down when you park and skip using chemical air fresheners in your car; they only add more ingredients to the toxin soup.

When the weather is hot, be sure to pull your windows down for a few minutes upon first entering the vehicle, then put them up and turn on the air conditioning.

Afraid you’ll melt or burst into flames if you leave your windows down on a hot summer day? Fear not: removing the superheated air inside the car first, rather than forcing the AC to process it, actually cools the cabin of the vehicle faster than if you leave the windows up.

Living in this world, we cannot completely avoid being exposed to toxins. However, we can reduce our exposure by being mindful of the things we can control. This summer, put those car windows down; your body will thank you for it

Author's Bio: 

Carisa Holmes is a holistic health advocate, Reiki practitioner and author based in Columbus, Ohio. Carisa has worked in the holistic health and natural beauty fields for nearly 10 years.

Through overcoming a plethora of personal health issues and working with clients, Carisa has developed a clear understanding of the functions of the physical body as well as the more subtle layers of the human energy field.

In her practice, Carisa helps empower people to move toward higher levels of wellness. Using tools such as whole food, natural skin care and powerful yet gentle Reiki, Carisa helps clients lose weight without starving themselves, heal sickness and injury, increase energy levels and feel more calm, happy and alive.

Carisa is very grateful for the many things she has learned and is eager to share them with others.

To contact Carisa about how you can heal yourself naturally, visit or email directly at