New car smell not so sweet for taxi and Uber drivers

“Happiness is the smell of a new car”, according to adman Don Draper on TV series Mad Men.

But new research suggests it’s a smell best avoided, with researchers finding levels of cancer-causing compounds inside a new vehicle can exceed suggested limits.

A study by Beijing Institute of Technology and Harvard School of Public Health measured the concentrations of 20 common volatile organic compounds over 12 days in a new vehicle, parked outside under different temperatures and environmental conditions.

The paper published in Cell Reports, concludes that ‘new car smell’ could be harmful to human health.

The researchers found levels of formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) and acetaldehyde (a probable carcinogen) exceeded suggested limits by 35 and 60% respectively. The emissions mainly come from in-cabin materials.

Formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, 2-ethyl hexanol, and hexanal were the top four volatile organic compounds by concentration.

The researchers modelled the incremental lifetime cancer risk for drivers and passengers based on their exposure to emissions from in-cabin materials via breathing in, ingestion or skin uptake. 

They say the results indicate there is a high health risk for drivers, particularly those working as taxi or ride-share drivers. 

Please login to favourite this article.