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Why You Shouldn't Love That 'New Car Smell'
Previous research has shown that 'new car smell' can be harmful to your health — but NASA has a solution to satisfy your nose and your body.
By Jeffrey Kopman
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TUESDAY, Nov. 20, 2012 –A 2012 study from two nonprofit organizations, Ecology Center and HealthyStuff.org, demonstrated that “new car smell” comes from a mixture of chemicals, some of which may be hazardous to your health. Now, NASA is working on new technology to eliminate these hazards and prevent the harmful effects.
That potentially dangerous new car smell comes from a physical process known as outgassing. The gases come from newly manufactured car parts. But outgassing doesn’t affect only cars. NASA has observed a similar issue with space vehicles. Telescope mirrors, cryogenic instruments, detectors, and other NASA devices on spaceships can easily be contaminated by outgassed solvents.
Sharon Straka, a NASA engineer, and her team believe they have found a solution. The team has created a spray coating that adsorbs — or holds — the harmful molecules and prevents them from attaching to car and spacecraft parts. The spray can be easily applied to car parts that release dangerous chemicals and residual solvents, such as dashboards, car seats, and carpeting. The spray also represents a low-cost option compared to similar products.
"It looks promising," Straka said in a NASA press release. "It collects significantly more contaminants than other approaches."
Current approaches require several bulky devices to remove outgassing fumes. NASA's spray paint is less intrusive, but also more effective.
"This is an easy technology to insert at a relatively low risk and cost," said co-principal investigator Mark Hasegawa. "The benefits are significant."
The easily administered remedy could yield positive health results for new car owners. Toxic chemicals released through outgassing have been linked to thyroid issues, memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes, birth defects, cancer and problems with the liver, testes, ovaries, kidneys, and blood. Even the most loyal new car smell advocates would have a hard time risking these severe health effects for a fine scented automobile.
Straka’s paint is a few tweaks away from completion, and further testing is still required.
"We're ready for prime time," Straka said.
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