Sources of Air Pollution In Vehicle Interiors

There are many sources of air pollution inside vehicles. Considering the relatively small size of most interiors, air pollution inside your vehicle can become very concentrated. Some of the following pollutants can trigger allergies, sinus trouble, etc. A car air purifier is a great way to reduce interior air pollution.

Exhaust from Other Vehiclesvehicle traffic and air pollution

If you've ever walked, jogged, or biked alongside a busy street you may have noticed an irritating exhaust buildup in the air. Exhaust contains benzene, carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals. These pollutants are drawn into vehicles, and air inside is about 2 to 10 times more polluted on a congested freeway or major street.

General Air Pollution

Pollution from factories, power plants, fires, etc. drawn into your car through ventilation ducts.

Auto Interior Materials

Did you know that your car's interior is a source of interior air pollution? The synthetic materials (plastics etc.) that make up your vehicle's interior release toxic chemical gases into the air, and that "new car smell" is actually an initial stronger release of these chemicals. Like carpets, furniture, building materials, etc. in homes and offices, your vehicle's plastic dashboard, seats, and carpeting release formaldehyde and other toxic chemical gases. This is called "out-gassing" and it affects all vehicles. You may have noticed a thin film or residue coating the inside of the windshield every week or so, especially during hot summer months, which is the result of chemical out-gassing from the dashboard. Parking your car in the heat, especially in direct sunlight, "bakes" the interior, which increases the problem since heat causes or aggravates chemical gassing. Since most vehicle exteriors consist of painted metal they also absorb and transfer a great amount of heat to the interior. The darker the exterior paint and interior colors, the more heat absorbed from the sun and the higher the interior temperature. In addition, your car's windows and windshield act as giant magnifying glasses, further intensifying heat and UV rays onto the dashboard and interior. This is commonly known as the greenhouse effect. As an example, a 79 degrees Fahrenheit outdoor temperature can quickly result in the following temperatures inside your vehicle:

Interior Color Potential Temperature
WHITE 135 degrees Fahrenheit
RED 154 degrees Fahrenheit
BLUE/GREEN 165 degrees Fahrenheit
BLACK 192 degrees Fahrenheit


Spills from trips to fast-food places can leave lingering odors.


Dander, odors, and nervous trips to the vet.


Mold can grow inside your vehicle's AC system and ducts due to condensation and moisture accumulation. Mold can form on carpets, seats, and other materials as a result of a water leak or spill. Mold also causes musty odors, and some species of mold are toxic.


Perspiration from trips to the park, gym, beach, soccer practice, etc. can easily be absorbed into seats, causing odors to build-up over time. Cold germs can also linger in vehicles.


Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals which penetrate and remain embedded in upholstery, AC systems and ducts for years. Smoke is also a major odor source.


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