Two studies, one from Australia and the other from the United States, indicate that the new car smell is actually a blend of about 20 substances that may be toxic.

Materials such as vinyl, plastic, leather, carpets, paint, glue, adhesives, solvents, cleaners and so on produce invisible and harmful chemical emissions. These emissions, at levels that may be 130 times normal, include benzene (carcinogenic), volatile organic compounds, toluene (a cause of central nervous system disorders) and acetone (producing irritation to mucous membranes).

This chemical soup may cause discomfort, sleepiness, fatigue, headaches, confusion, and eye or nose irritation. This is why you are advised to drive with the windows down as often as possible after getting a new car, since polluting emissions may linger for six months or more. You should always let fresh air into the vehicle.

Carmakers are aware of this phenomenon and some of them, especially the Japanese, are starting to build vehicles containing much less of these toxic products.