Claim: Automobile components emit dangerous levels of cancer-causing benzene fumes.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, May 2009]
According to a research done, the car dashboard, sofa, air freshener emits Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin (carcinogen- take note of the heated plastic Smell in your car). In addition to causing cancer, it poisons your bones, causes anemia, and reduces white blood cells. Prolonged exposure will cause Leukemia, increasing the risk of cancer. May also cause miscarriage.
Acceptable Benzene level indoors is 50 mg per sq. ft.. A car parked indoors with the windows closed will contain
It is recommended that you open the windows and door to give time for the interior to air out before you enter. Benzene is a toxin that affects your kidney and liver, and is very difficult for your body to expel this toxic stuff.
Origins: This item about the dangers of benzene supposedly emitted by automobile components has been widely misunderstood. Many readers have come away from the article with the impression that it warns drivers not to use their cars' air conditioning because the A/C system itself is producing benzene, but what the article actually cautions against is the practice of turning on the air conditioning immediately upon entering an automobile. Motorists should instead, it says, roll down their windows in order to allow accumulated benzene fumes (allegedly emitted by other components, such as dashboards and upholstery) to vent from the car first before re-closing the windows and turning on the A/C.
How much truth is there to this warning? Evidence suggests an association between exposure to benzene and an excess risk of leukemia, as noted by the American Cancer Society (ACS):
The human data are supported by animal studies. There is sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of benzene in experimental animals. Key animal studies support the finding of an excess risk of leukemia in humans from exposure to benzene by inhalation and ingestion. The details of these studies have been reviewed and found to support the association between benzene and cancer.
- The study found that traveling by automobile increased exposure to a number of deleterious compounds, including benzene, but the primary factor in this regard was the fuel used by the vehicles, not internal components such as dashboards.
- The study found that benzene levels were higher in older cars than newer cars, which suggests that the primary factor in automobile benzene levels was not associated with the "new car smell" emitted by components such as dashboards and upholstery.
- The study found that exposure levels were significantly higher during the winter months, which suggests that automobile air conditioning use is not a major factor in benzene exposure.
A 2007 German study on "Toxicity of Parked Motor Vehicle Indoor Air" which specifically tested the health effects of emissions from one new and one three-year-old vehicle exposed to "parked in sunshine" conditions found "no apparent health hazard of parked motor vehicle indoor air":
New car smell does not appear to be toxic, the scientists found. Air from the new car did cause a slight aggravation of the immune response that could affect people with allergies, but the same was not seen with the older vehicle.
The ACS similarly noted of this e-mail that:
| Is Your Car Killing You with Benzene? |
(American Cancer Society)
Last updated: 28 August 2015
Buters, Jeroen T.M. et al. "Toxicity of Parked Motor Vehicle Indoor Air." Environmental Science & Technology. 2 March 2007. Choi, Charles Q. "That New-Car Smell? Not Toxic, Study Finds." LiveScience.com. 6 April 2007. Lee, Jin-Woo et al. "Commuter Exposure to Benzene While Traveling in Urban Areas." The Science of the Total Environment. May 2002 (pp. 219-228).