Honda has taken it on the chin for its boring redesign of the Civic, but here's one thing it got really right: reducing the use of toxic chemicals as it manufactured the interiors. According to the Ecology Center's new report on HealthyStuff.org, the 2012 Civic uses the least amount of off-gassing plastics, materials that can lead to emissions of volatile organic compounds. VOCs have been linked to health problems, including cancer and birth defects, according to the report.
"Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center, in a statement. "Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose those dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives."
For example, Honda does not use bromine-based flame retardants in the Civic and specs PVC-free interior fabrics and trim, while also eliminating most heavy metals from the interior.
The worst vehicle tested, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, "contained bromine and antimony-based flame retardants in the seating and center console; chromium treated leather on several components; and over 400 ppm lead in seating materials," according to the report.
The good news is that PVC use is declining overall, with 17 percent of new models boasting PVC-free interiors, up from none in 2006, according to HealthyStuff.org. Some 60 percent of new vehicles do not contain bromine flame retardants. It seems like automakers are getting behind efforts to eliminate these hazardous chemicals from vehicle interiors, with HealthyStuff.org pointing out that Ford and Volvo have adopted voluntary third-party eco labels for some of their vehicles. Ford's average ratings for its vehicles showed a 30 percent improvement from the 2009/2010 study.
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