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Maitland Chiropractor: Is Your Car Making You Sick?

Most people can readily recognize the aroma of a new car.   Some call it, the new car smell, but did you know that this new car smell is a toxic cocktail of harmful chemical?

That all familiar smell emanates largely from chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that leach from glues, paints, vinyls and plastics in the passenger compartment. The fumes from VOC’s can trigger headaches, sore throats, nausea and drowsiness.

Examples of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

 Prolonged exposure to some of these chemicals has been found to lead to cancer.

 Formaldehyde is one of the best known VOCs.  The short-term health effects of formaldehyde exposure are well known but, less is known about its potential long-term health effects. In 1980, laboratory studies showed that exposure to formaldehyde could cause nasal cancer in rats. This finding raised the question of whether formaldehyde exposure could also cause cancer in humans. In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure (1). Since that time, some studies of humans have suggested that formaldehyde exposure is associated with certain types of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen (2). In 2011, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency program of the Department of Health and Human Services, named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens (3).

According to a 2001 study by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, just sitting in a new car can subject riders to toxic emissions several times the limits found safe for homes or offices.

 One country is stepping up and plans to put an end to this toxic cocktail.  The Japanese automotive industry agreed to cut cabin levels of 13 of the compounds, including possible cancer-causing agents styrene and formaldehyde.  Most of Japan’s top five makers — Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi and Mazda — are already rolling out cars in compliance and touting the lower volatile organic compound levels as a key selling point, a move that is likely to catch on globally. The United States lags behind in addressing this health concern.

 Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no guidelines for volatile organic compounds in non-industrial settings.  In fact, the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents nine carmakers including General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG, says it does not follow the issue of volatile organic compounds.

Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include:  eye irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea (difficulty breathing), declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, vomiting, epistaxis (bleeding from the nose), fatigue, dizziness.

If you have allergy or asthma concerns, then call Dr. Bolick your Maitland Chiropractor today 407-629-533 for an evaluation.  ALCAT has and environmental chemical sensitivity panel that includes sensitivity testing for common volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) http://bolickclinic.com/alcat-testing/

 Selected References:

1.  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation. Report to Congress on Indoor Air Quality, Volume II: Assessment and Control of Indoor Air Pollution, 1989.


2.  International Agency for Research on Cancer (June 2004). IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 88 (2006): Formaldehyde, 2-Butoxyethanol and 1-tert-Butoxypropan-2-ol. Retrieved June 10, 2011, from: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol88/index.php.


3.  National Toxicology Program (June 2011). Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program. Retrieved June 10, 2011, from: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/roc12.


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