Is Your Car Interior Oozing Toxic Chemicals?

We are surrounded by toxic contaminants – pollution from industry and cars, BPA from plastics, chemicals in our foods and water and even damaging EMF radiation from electrical appliances and wireless communication devices. And, chances are, if you read a newspaper of watch TV news, you’re probably aware of these daily toxic assaults to our bodies. It’s always running in the back of our minds along with the idea that there’s really nothing to be done about it.

Environmental group HealthyStuff.org, a nonprofit environmental research organization, is fighting to do something about it. They recently released the results of a study on over 900 common products and tested them for toxic contaminants including lead, cadmium, mercury, bromine, chlorine (PVC) and arsenic; ingredients which have been linked to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, liver toxicity and cancer. By analyzing the ingredients of pet products, automobiles, women’s accessories, children’s car seats and more, the group has created “the largest database of independent tests of toxic chemicals in consumer goods.” In total, the database includes over 5000 products.

From the press release and said Jeff Gearhart:

“The more we test, the more we find that the presence of toxic chemicals is widespread in everyday consumer products. It should not be the responsibility of public health advocates to test these products. Product manufacturers and legislators must take the lead and replace dangerous substances with safe alternatives.”

The idea behind the database is to give consumers information that will help them make better purchasing decisions when it comes to protecting themselves and their families from toxic chemicals. You can search their database under children’s products, cars, pets, apparel and accessories, and toys.

Although the car search includes 700 vehicles, my own car, a 2003 Ford Focus, was absent from the list. The closest I could get was a 2006 Focus which I assumed (although who knows how safe that assumption is) that it would be similar. I was a bit dismayed to find that my car (or as close to it as I could get to it) was rated “Medium Level” for toxicity, rather than the coveted “Low Level”. I even got details like the fact that, while there’s no mercury in my car (phew!), my front seat contains lead, my steering wheel is loaded with chromium and my shift knob contains chlorine.

Perhaps the failing of the database, however, is that the consumer isn’t really left with a way to determine what to do with this information. There is a disclaimer on the site that warns readers that their studies did not determine the effects of exposure to these chemicals or what the tendency would be for these chemicals to migrate into the body. They’re merely measuring the presence of these chemicals and not actually estimating the health risk posed.

Nonetheless, the database is a step forward in informing consumers on what they are being exposed to. This is probably most useful for purchasing things like baby toys, where you can bet that the toy is going straight into the mouth of a vulnerable growing child. I was also surprised to discover that there are currently no regulations regarding the manufacture of pet toys. HealthyStuff.org, partnering with other health organizations, is also organizing the “Million Baby Crawl” to promote chemical policy reform in Washington.

Author by Doug DiPasquale