A widely used flame retardant called HBCD often comes embedded in foam cushioning, but it doesn’t always stay there. In a 2009 study published in the journal Environment International, researchers detected this noxious chemical in dust on the front panel, dashboard and steering wheel – meaning drivers (and dash-dancing hula girls) are probably breathing it in.
Stay safe Filter supplier Ryco recommends you change your car’s cabin air filter annually or every 15,000 kilometres. Alternatively, vacuum your car once a week.
That nice new car smell comes from fresh paint, upholstery, deodorisers and plastic. But it comes loaded: you’re breathing in potentially carcinogenic gaseous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a study by Hungkuang University in Taiwan found.
Stay safe The VOCs persist long after the smell has gone and levels increase when your car heats up – so park in the shade. If the sun is unavoidable, the Ecology Centre in Michigan suggests using a windshield sunshade or cracking the windows to let the vapours escape.
Cranking up the radio may be harming your heart, says a study by Daejeon University in South Korea. Researchers found that men who were regularly exposed to noise of 85 decibels or above had much higher systolic blood pressure. The top volume of many stereos exceeds 100 decibels.
Stay safe Conversation averages about 60 decibels, a safe level for extended listening, says the National Institutes of Health in the US. Do a sound check in your car: with tunes blasting, speak normally. Now turn the volume down until you can clearly hear your voice over the singer’s.
Running on cruise can delay your reaction time by about five seconds, says a study by Germany’s Technical University of Braunschweig, which tested drivers as they entered road curves or foggy spots – places where you don’t want to waste reaction time.Stay safe Hit cruise control only on flat, straight roads on sunny days. And when you do, keep both feet on the floor so you can brake if you need to.