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Did you recently buy a new car and enjoy that glorious new-car smell? Unfortunately, it has proven to be toxic for you. And what’s even worse is that it can be even more toxic during the summertime. In fact, all car interiors are toxic when the weather gets hotter. Let’s see why.

Car interiors are more toxic during these two different times

Cabin in new 2023 Toyota bZ4X electric SUV, one of the most eco-friendly cars
2023 Toyota bZ4X electric SUV | Toyota

That beloved new car smell you can’t get enough of is a combination of all the coatings, plastics, and fabrics in the car’s interior. Over time, those materials start to wear off as the car gets used. However, that lovely scent is never truly gone, even through all of the wear and tear, and the chemicals that reside are released in lower doses.

According to How Stuff Works, this process is called “off gassing.” But when Summer comes around, and the ambient temperature heats up, some of the toxic fumes stir up again. Additionally, if the car is brand new, these toxic materials and chemicals are at their peak, which is why we smell it more during that time.

Why is the new car smell so toxic?

Customer looks at window sticker
Customer checks out the window sticker on a new car | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The new car smell is derived from a possible 275 different contaminants – maybe more. Some of the most harmful materials and chemicals are vinyl, formaldehyde, flame retardants, and various other metals and plastics in the car. Breathing in the fumes that these surfaces emit can cause nausea and headaches. Prolonged exposure to these fumes can cause central nervous system problems, hormonal issues, memory loss, and cancer.

How to prevent the new car smell from being harmful

The interior in the McLaren GT
The interior of the McLaren GT | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

In order to cut down on the harmful new car odors, it’s recommended to leave the car’s windows cracked to vent out the interior when possible. After buying a new car, you can keep the windows down while driving as much as possible to circulate the air and cut down on the off gassing.

In the summertime, you can crack the windows a little every time you park and use UV-resistant sunshades to block out the sun’s harmful rays. These UV rays contribute to the materials off gassing and make the new car smell more potent. Another tip is leaving the windows down for a few minutes before turning on the air conditioner. The harmful fumes get sucked in and recirculated by the car’s air conditioning system.

So, while it may be uncomfortable for a few minutes, it could be worth it to vent the car before cooling it. That new car scent may be so good that it’s intoxicating, but it’s also toxic. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to protect your health during the summer and when you buy a new car.


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