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Automobiles Wait, Will That “New Car Smell” Wreak Havoc on Your Immune System?Uh, probably not. However, that oh-so-lovely scent is made up of more than you think.

Turns out that “new car smell” isn’t an elixer used by by car dealers to block out common sense so you fall for the extra rustproofing markup. Instead, what you’re inhaling is a mishmash of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Now, we know what you’re thinking: the name “volatile organic compounds” sounds oddly terrifying. And you’re right!

But it so happens that VOCs are ubiquitous and found in many household products — paint, upholstery, air fresheners, gasoline, cleaning products, and carpet cleaners. So you’re already breathing them in, likely on a day-to-day basis.

That said, you can still experience discomfort from exposure. (Fun fact: The process that leads to the chemicals being emitted into the air is called off-gassing or outgassing). Common symptoms include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Folks with preexisting conditions like asthma, or children and elderly people are more likely to be affected.

However, VOCs can become a health issue with chronic exposure. Extreme exposure, for example, has been linked to cancer and damage to the liver and central nervous system.

So, does cruising in your new ride translate to chronic exposure? Nah.

So there’s no need to roll around with every window down during winter while sporting a Darth Vader helmet infused with HEPA filters.

In fact, according to the EPA, automakers have been on the hunt to find products and materials that reduce VOCs in their interiors for decades. Plus, unless you’re living and working out of your car, odds are you’ll be fine.

Still, if you want to crack a window or two and keep the interior temperature from skyrocketing, those tasks can help keep any ill effects at bay.

Lastly, according to, in about six months, that “new car smell” will wear off, anyway. Then your car can smell like it usually does: dirty feet mixed with stale Funyons.

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