1. Headline
  1. Headline
Gm  /  Ecology Center
The Ecology Center tested 200 vehicle interiors for chemical content. In this photo, the group shows some areas in a 2007 Chevy Silverado and their chemical composition in percentages or parts per million. For the ppm numbers, 10,000 ppm represents 1 percent of weight, the group said.
By Miguel Llanos Reporter
updated 3/21/2007 6:01:23 PM ET 2007-03-21T22:01:23

Billing it as the first-ever consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars, an advocacy group rated more than 200 models based on interior parts — from steering wheels to armrests — whose chemical components could break down over time.

"These chemicals become part of the air we breathe, contributing to 'new car smell' and a variety of acute and long-term health concerns," the Ecology Center said in announcing the ratings on Tuesday. "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 American Chemistry Council, representing the chemical industry, noted that the guide does not actually measure any breakdown of chemicals over time. "There's nothing here on exposure, they're just looking at chemical constituents," said spokeswoman Jennifer Killinger.

Nothing in the guide identifies health impacts, or that "the level of exposures are unsafe," she said. Killinger added that in the case of phthalates, chemicals often used in plastics, the Consumer Product Safety Council found little risk, while testing by the Centers for Disease Control has found low levels in humans.

The CDC, however, has also called for additional studies on phthalates given that some animal tests show a possible link to cancer. In addition, the European Union has banned phthalates in the use of toys.

Worst, best picks
The Ecology Center's worst vehicle picks, in order, were: the Nissan Versa, Chevy Aveo, Scion xB wagon, Kia Rio, Suzuki Forenza, Kia Spectra 5, Subaru Forester, Chevy Express, Hyundai Accent and Chevy Silverado.

Its best picks were: the Chevy Cobalt, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Honda Odyssey, Volvo V50, Suzuki Aerio, Acura RDX Tech, BMW X3, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Matrix and Volvo S40.

The United States does not have standards for air quality in vehicles, said the Ecology Center's clean car campaign director, Jeff Gearhart.

"In general, new vehicles have levels of chemicals in the air dust which exceed proposed guideline values and may be hazardous to your health," he added, citing a 2006 study by Japanese scientists.

"The findings demonstrated that the air in the cabin of these cars was contaminated by highconcentrations of a large variety of organiccompound diffusing from the interior materials," the researchers said in the study, published in the journal Indoor and Built Environment.

The Ecology Center noted that some carmakers have begun to phase out toxic chemicals such as bromine, chlorine, 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 cancer," the Ecology Center said.

  1. Stories from
    1. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin Attend East Hampton Screening Together
    2. Once Upon a Time Casts Frozen's Hans & Pabbie Roles
    3. Texas 13-Year-Old Wakes Up to Smoldering Cell Phone Under Her Pillow
    4. How Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Became 'Fast Friends'
    5. RHOC Recap: Lizzie Rovsek Has a Very Unhappy Birthday

Gearhart said the sampling showed that car interiors can be safe for one's health. "There is no excuse for manufacturers not to replace these hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives immediately," he said.

Industry challenged earlier report
The American Chemistry Council disagreed that the chemicals as used in vehicle interiors are hazardous, and cited differences with an earlier Ecology Center report claiming that dust inside cars can be toxic.

"Scientists know that the mere presence of a chemical doesn't automatically make it a public health issue," Marian Stanley, who headed a council panel reviewing the report, said in a statement at the time. "It's just plain irresponsible for so-called public health reports to take the mere fact that a substance is present or has been detected in dust and suggest — without addressing the toxicity profile — that this presents a health risk."

The Ecology Center said it sampled the 2006 and 2007 vehicle models using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device that identifies the basic composition of a material in under a minute.

Fifteen components were sampled based on which were most likely to be touched or otherwise contribute to human exposure.

The Ecology Center added that the same chemicals can also create environmental damage.

"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," it said. "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 the atmosphere."

The full ratings are online at healthycar.org.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. ‘Lost a best friend’: First American dies in Ebola outbreak

    The Ebola outbreak that has killed hundreds of people in west Africa has claimed its first American; Patrick Sawyer, 40, a former Minnesota man working for the Liberian government.

    7/29/2014 3:36:41 PM +00:00 2014-07-29T15:36:41
  2. American aid worker who contracted Ebola doing ‘as well as could be expected’
  1. Peter Kramer / NBC, Eve Pearl

    Natalie, Hoda and Tamron share favorite shades for National Lipstick Day

    7/29/2014 1:03:40 PM +00:00 2014-07-29T13:03:40
  1. Lance Booth/TODAY

    Join Fresh Cooks Live! Learn to make pizza, calzones on the grill

    7/29/2014 2:39:19 PM +00:00 2014-07-29T14:39:19