Toxic Material Found in Automobiles: Guest Article by Brian Turner, Syracuse, New York

Brian Turner is an auto enthusiast from Syracuse, New York. His recent interests include researching and writing about the inherent toxic hazards present in many automobile parts. Here is an article he shared on the subject, which I think is valuable information for all readers. Thanks Brian for your contribution.

15 December 2011: Brian Turner, Syracuse, New York

Most people’s daily routine involves spending time in an automobile, yet few realize cars can contain several toxic substances. In fact, that new car smell so many enjoy may actually be the odor of poisonous chemicals. And worse yet, some of these dangerous materials can lead to severe illnesses. While the risk of getting sick from using a car is low, it’s smart for everyone to educate themselves on some of the harmful substances found in them, especially if they plan on doing automotive work.


Some cars, particularly old models, can have asbestos in their brake pads and clutches. This is a major concern, because exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer that covers a protective lining on the body’s internal organs. Although it is rare to see a case of mesothelioma from simply driving a car, it has been seen with some frequency in mechanics, especially if they have repaired lots of old cars.

Bromine is a chemical used to make plastic flame retardant. Unfortunately, it can be unhealthy, and is associated with thyroid and neurological problems. Bromine is used in many plastic car parts, and of particular concern is the fact that some children’s car seats contain it in detectable levels.

Like bromine, antimony is also used in flame retardant materials. In cars, it’s most frequently found in seat covers. However, antimony is severely poisonous on its own, and has toxicity levels similar to arsenic. Breathing in small amounts of antimony dust can cause headaches and dizziness, and exposure to large doses can cause vomiting, organ damage, and possibly even death.

Another toxic chemical found in some car parts is chlorine or PVC. This substance is known to cause respiratory problems and can increase the risk of cancer in high doses. Chlorine is found in several parts of an automobile, including seats, shift knobs and armrests.

Some automotive paints contain benzene, which is associated with many different health risks. In fact, benzene is so toxic that breathing it in its pure form can cause death. While car owners don’t have to worry about benzene-based paints causing sudden death, they should still be weary of its carcinogenic effects. Indeed, benzene exposure is a well-documented cause of leukemia.

Safety Procedures
There are many safety procedures one can do to avoid inhaling these toxins and decrease the chance of getting sick. When your car is sitting out on a hot day for a long time, once getting into the car you should open all the windows to air it out. One should try and park their car into the shade to avoid the hotness to enter their cars. Try not to use the air-conditioning for long periods of time. Modern cars these days are not full of asbestos as they used to, but if one owns a classic before the year ’93 make sure to protect yourself if performing on your car replacing parts and to follow the procedures as discussed above.

About Brian Turner: 
I’ve always had a love for cars ever since I was young. I love all types of cars like classics, tuner, muscle, super cars, exotics, etc. I began to research and found that there are toxins within automobiles that may lead to cancer. I’m a passionate blogger regarding environmental toxins, and as a result, I have recently been accepted as a staff contributor to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance blog where I post about the cancer risks that toxins such as asbestos pose. You may find my writings here:
My interest in all was to get the word out and try my best to make sure that everybody will protect themselves so that nobody would get sick from this. It is truly sad and disappointing to see people get sick while doing what they love and have a passion for.

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