Bad, better, best at
How to find a car with better
interior air quality

UPdate Summer 2007

Move over Lemon-aide and Consumer Reports. Make way for

Until now, that new car chemical soup was a nasty fact of life consumers just had to live with. There was no way to identify which models had fewer toxic chemicals in cabin air. has changed all that.

To create, the first ever consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars, the Michigan Ecology Center tested 200 of the most popular 2006 and 2007 model vehicles for chemicals that off-gas from steering wheels, dashboards, armrests, seats and other parts of car interiors.

The results are available on line at Consumers can search for the best picks in each class of vehicle.

The good news is that some cars are better than others - up to ten times better.

"Our findings show that it is not necessary to use toxic chemicals when making indoor auto parts," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's Clean Car Campaign Director. "There is no excuse for manufacturers not to replace these hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives immediately."

The proof is in the report. Chevy has the distinction of manufacturing both the best and worst picks among the cars sampled. GM’s Chevy Cobalt scored best overall, while the GM Silverado truck scored worst. The Cobalt was rated at 0.5 (in a 0-5 scale), while the Silverado was measured at 5.0. Volvo and Honda/Acura both had two models in the top ten, while Kia/Hyundai joined Chevy with three entries in the worst ten. tested the chemicals most strongly associated with harmful human health impacts: bromine (from brominated flame retardants), chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and plasticizers), lead, and other heavy metals These chemicals have been linked to health problems including allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. They are not the only harmful chemicals found in cars, but Ecology Centre rated them as the most significant.

The chemicals released from car parts become part of the air people breathe when they spend time in a car. The average North American spends more than 1.5 hours in a car every day.

In an earlier report, the 2005 Automotive Plastics Report, the Ecology Centre found that Toyota led the field in use of recyclable and biodegradable plastics in indoor auto parts. A 2006 follow up report found that Toyota continued to lead the industry in this area, and that Ford and Honda had joined the frontrunners, showing significant improvement from 2005. These reports can also be found at

Fuel efficiency ratings are posted on every new car. Safety and reliability information are available from independent sources such as Consumer Reports and Lemon-aide. It’s about time for a resource like Cruise around and see how your favourite manufacturer measures up. Let automobile sales people know you care about cabin air quality. Car manufacturers know how to decrease contaminants in cabin air. They will do it when public pressure makes it worth their while.

Even cars rated “best” by will probably not be immediately tolerable for people with chemical sensitivity. For tips on how to decrease chemical odors in cars more quickly, see

Healthy Car Seats Infant car seats are the focus of the newest report at The report rates over 60 new, brand name infant, convertible and booster car seats. The study found that while some car seats are virtually free of the most dangerous chemicals, others contain high levels of some toxins.