I just bought a lovely new car, so why is the smell of it making me feel sick? © Getty

I just bought a lovely new car, so why is the smell of it making me feel sick?

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Nostril tingling chemicals can cause feelings of nausea as they leak out of the car’s materials. Might be best to crack a window and let some fresh air in.

Many people enjoy that straight-out-of-the-showroom smell, but it’s also not unheard of for it to prompt feelings of nausea. The cause is likely to be the so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) leeching out of the fabric, plastics and adhesives used inside the car.


Studies by the Ecology Center in Michigan, USA have found over 200 chemicals in car interiors, including the sickly-sweet, toxic hydrocarbons benzene and toluene. The problem is worst in new cars bought during the summer, when the materials are fresh and can get very hot. So it’s a good idea to keep the interior well-ventilated when driving, and park in the shade.

Fortunately, most of these volatile chemicals fade over time. If you still feel sick, then maybe it’s not the car’s smell that’s to blame, but the thought of keeping up the repayments…

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Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.


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