Your New Car Smell Is Poisonous According to Trevor Noah

Part of buying a new vehicle is getting to enjoy that new car smell on your way home. However, Trevor Noah shared on the Daily Show that the new car smell could be filled with dangerous carcinogens. 

Does the new car smell cause cancer? 

According to Trevor Noah, a new study suggests that the new car smell contains high carcinogen levels. With the help of Science Alert, we can break this down. Auto manufacturers may use dangerous benzene and formaldehyde in plastics, leathers, glues, and more.

A blue 2021 Kia Sorento SX on display in a parking lot with a building in the background
The 2021 Kia Sorento SX on display | Kia

The chemicals can slowly seep into the air and attach to dust. This process is known as off-gas. Once they catch a ride, they can move from the plastics, foams, and textiles to the air you inhale. These volatile compounds can build up in small spaces, like inside your vehicle, unless you crack your windows for fresh air. 

Trevor Noah comedically suggests that this isn’t a surprise because the smell is so unnatural. He mentions that the scent of a new Kia Sorento would never be found in a botanical garden. But just because carcinogens can be emitted doesn’t mean that they cause cancer. The most dangerous part of driving is still driving. 

Who is at risk? 

The studies suggest that people with longer commutes are at a higher risk of inhaling these chemicals. This makes sense as they spend more time in their vehicles as their new car smell fades. 

While the average American spends an hour a day commuting to work, studies found that just being in a vehicle for 20 minutes a day can put people at risk of unacceptably high levels of carcinogens. But as people spend longer amounts of time in their vehicles, the exposure level may rise. 

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However, don’t panic. There are a lot of factors to consider. Along with how long you spend in your car, the number of compounds emitted into your vehicle plays a role. The levels may vary based on how old your vehicle is and the surrounding temperatures.

Known carcinogens are not likely to cause cancer under certain thresholds, but limiting exposure can reduce the risk. Also, poor health outcomes may increase the risk. For example, those who are inactive, obese, and sleep-deprived may increase the chances.  

How can you make your vehicle safer? 

A majority of Americans have no other option besides traveling in a vehicle for work. This means that the risk of exposure needs to be reduced during the car manufacturing process. Toxic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde could be replaced by less harmful alternatives. 

Improving access to public transport and bicycle networks could help provide more travel options. This would also reduce the amount of congestion on America’s crowded highways, resulting in less time spent in vehicles. 

2021 Jeep Wrangler with half doors
2021 Jeep Wrangler with half doors | Jeep

Also, people can take more actions to protect their health by adding a little exercise to their daily routines. Get good sleep too. Driving drowsy is the equivalent of driving drunk. That could increase the risk of accidents. 

The next time you’re driving on a beautiful day, roll your windows down for some fresh air. You may lose your new car smell, but perhaps you’ll alleviate some of the chemical build-ups in your ride as well.