HealthyStuff.org - News Release
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12:01 a.m. EST, March 20, 2007
Shayna Samuels, 718-541-4785
or Glenn Turner, 917-817-3396
HealthyCar.Org Released Today As First-Ever Consumer Guide to Toxic
Chemicals in Cars; Over 200 New Vehicles Ranked for Environmental Safety
Chemicals Released from Indoor Auto Parts Contribute to "New Car
Smell" and Serious Health Concerns for Drivers & Passengers
Worst Picks: Nissan Versa, Chevy Aveo, Scion xB 5dr, Kia Rio
Best Picks: Chevy Cobalt, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Honda Odyssey, Volvo V50
March 20, 2007 - Ann Arbor, MI) - Today the Ecology Center released the
first-ever consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars at www.healthycar.org.
Over 200 of the most popular 2006- and 2007-model vehicles in the U.S.
were tested for chemicals that off-gas from indoor auto parts such as
the steering wheel, dashboard, armrests and seats. These chemicals become
part of the air we breathe contributing to "new car smell" and a variety
of acute and long-term health concerns. Since the average American spends
more than 1.5 hours in a car every day, toxic chemical exposure inside
vehicles is a major source of potential indoor air pollution.
The good news is that some cars are better than others. Toxic chemicals
are not required to make indoor auto parts, and some manufacturers have
begun to phase them out. Chemicals of primary concern include: bromine
(associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the
presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; and heavy
metals. Such chemicals have been linked to a wide range of health problems
such as allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and
Following are the 10 best and 10 worst of the cars that were tested.
GM's Chevy brand had the distinction of both best and worst pick in our
samples, with the Cobalt scoring first and Silverado truck scoring last.
Brands that fared well included Volvo and Honda/Acura, both with two models
in the top ten. Kia/Hyundai joined Chevy with three entries in the worst
A complete list vehicles and other resources are listed below:
"Our findings show that it is not necessary to use toxic chemicals when
making indoor auto parts," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's Clean
Car Campaign Director. "There is no excuse for manufacturers not to replace
these hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives immediately."
To sample the vehicles, experts at the Ecology Center used a portable
X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, which identifies the elemental composition
of any material in less than 60 seconds. In each vehicle 15 different
components were sampled including: steering wheel, shift knob, armrest/center
console, dashboard, headliner, carpet, seat front, seat back, seat base,
hard door trim, soft door trim, body sealer, wiring, window seal and wheel
weights. Components sampled were those most likely to be touched or otherwise
contribute to human exposure.
While there are numerous substances in vehicles that can lead to health
and environmental problems, HealthyCar.org selected those with known toxicity,
persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment. These
Bromine: Associated with the use of brominated flame retardants,
BFRs are added to plastics in order to impart fire resistance, but they
are released into the environment over the life of the vehicle. Heat and
UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals
and possibly increase their toxicity. Some BFRs have been associated with
thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility,
behavioral changes, and other health problems.
Chlorine: Associated with the use of polyvinyl chloride, PVC
is a widely used type of plastic that is of concern to the environment
and public health during all phases of its life cycle. PVC contains chemicals
called phthalates, some of which have been associated with decreased fertility,
pre-term deliveries, and damage to the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries,
kidneys, and blood. There is also evidence that phthalates can pass from
mothers to babies through the placenta and through breast milk.
Lead: Lead is sometimes used as an additive in automotive plastics.
Exposure can lead to a number of potential health effects including brain
damage, and problems with the kidneys, blood, nerves, and reproductive
system. It can also cause learning and behavioral problems.
Other: Other chemicals tested as part of healthycar.org include
antimony, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel and tin.
The substances in this category are allergens, carcinogens, or cause other
adverse health impacts depending on the concentrations and exposure levels.
The same chemicals that cause human health issues can also cause problems
in the environment. When vehicles are discarded at the end of their life,
the majority of plastic and other non-metallic parts are shredded and
put in landfills or burned in incinerators. When discarded in landfills,
harmful chemicals contained in vehicle plastics can leach out and contaminate
soil and water. When incinerated, toxic chemicals are dispersed throughout
"HealthyCar.Org is intended to help people make safer choices when it
comes to purchasing a vehicle," said Gearhart. "Hopefully manufacturers
will begin to get the message and make all of their future cars safe for
drivers and passengers."
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***ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: For interviews with the creators of healthycar.org;
graphs showing best/worst cars; or other requests please call Shayna Samuels