Choosing a chemical-free car for you and your pet

Choosing a chemical-free car for you and your pet
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New cars can be loaded with chemicals, which can be harmful to both you and your pet. Everyone knows the smell of new cars, but it turns out that the lusty aroma of recent automotive wealth is now being linked to potential health problems in pets. These are important factors to consider, especially if your pet often rides in the car with you.

The Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization, has a website calledhealthycar.org that rates a broad range of recent vehicles for hazardous chemicals in vehicle interiors. “New car smell comes from toxic chemicalsbeing released from plastics, foams and fabrics in auto parts such as the steering wheel, dashboard and seats,” the organization reports.

The least toxic winners

The organization tested more than 450 popular vehicles from the 2008 and 2009 model years. Vehicles of least concern (a round of applause, please):

  • Small cars: 2008 Smart Pure, 2008 Smart Passion Cabriolet
  • Family sedans: 2008 Honda Accord, 2009 Hyundai Sonata SEV6
  • Hatchbacks:  2008 Dodge Caliber, 2008 Saturn Astra XR 5dr
  • Upscale sedans: 2009 Acura TSX, 2008 Volve S40
  • Luxury sedans: 2008 BMW M5, 2008 Lexus LS 460
  • Large sedans: 2008 Dodge Charger, 2008 Pontiac G8
  • Coupes: 2008 Smart Pure, 2008 Smart Passion
  • Convertibles: 2008 Mercedes CLK350, 2008 Porsche 911
  • Sporty cars: 2008 Mercedes CLK350, 2008 Porsche Boxster
  • Station wagons: 2008 Honda FIT, 2009 Pontiac Vibe
  • Pickup trucks: 2008 GMC Sierra 1500, 2008 Toyota Tacoma
  • SUVs: 2008 Acura RDX, 2008 Dodge Nitro
  • Minivans: 2008 Hyundai Entourage, 2008 Chrysler Town & Country

Want to check a specific model?

If you own a newer car (2006 to 2009), there is a good chance your car model has been evaluated. Check healthycar.org to see if your car is of low, medium or high concern.

Using a hand-held X-ray fluorescence spectrometry device, the group’s evaluators detected bromine, chlorine and lead, along with other heavy metals, allergens and known carcinogens. These substances can build up in living things – humans as well as pets – and in the environment over time.

Since heat and ultraviolet rays accelerate the release of toxins, drivers are advised to use solar reflectors and park in the shade. Especially in newer cars, roll down the windows and ventilate before you and your pets enter a car that has been baking in the sun.

According to the organization’s 2006 Automotive Plastics Report Card, “Ford and Honda have made significant improvements since 2005, joiningToyota as leaders in the movement toward using sustainable plastics in indoor auto parts.”

‘Behind the curve’ advantages

Here’s some good news for people behind the wheel who remain behind the times. The concentration of  “volatile organic compounds declines over time,” according to a Japanese study. So having an older car may be less toxic to drivers and their pets.

The least toxic alternative, especially from an auto emissions standpoint as well as car-interior air quality, is walking outdoors with your pet, rather than driving.

But, if you remain vulnerable to the charms of “eau de car-logne” as AOL automotive writer Terry Galanoy dubbed it, your craving might be satisfied for a great deal less cash than purchasing a new automobile. Bottles of “new car smell” linen and room sprays have been advertised on eBay.

We’re not sure whether that smell will seduce a potential date … or bring on an unfortunate case of carsickness.

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