High levels of chemicals — two linked to the cause of cancer — were found while testing the air quality inside new cars, a study published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science said on Wednesday.
“The results in the new cars showed formaldehyde, a chemical compound the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says could cause cancer, was detected at levels 34.9% higher than Chinese national safety standards,” USA Today reported.
The article added, “Acetaldehyde, a probable human carcinogen, was found to be at levels 60.5% higher than Chinese national safety standards.”
The study said scientists from Harvard University and the Beijing Institute of Technology in China conducted a 12-day experiment, parking a new car outside and surveying it under different environmental conditions.
Researchers used sensors in the car to monitor concentrations of 20 different chemicals in the air. They studied other factors like in-cabin and out-cabin air temperature and relative humidity, according to the study.
The authors of the study said spending 30 minutes in a car every day can be enough exposure to put people “at risk of exceeding safety standards,” according to the New York Post.
Researchers monitored many materials inside the car, including the dashboard, car seat, car carpet, car roof and the car door interior trimming panel.
Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde
Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are volatile organic compounds, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as chemicals that evaporate easily and contain carbon atoms.
The American Cancer Society said formaldehyde “is a common colorless, strong-smelling chemical that is a gas at room temperature,” linked to causing cancer.
Natural to the environment, the website said the chemical can be found in:
Paper product coatings.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, acetaldehyde can also cause cancer.
The CDC said, “When you drink alcohol, your body breaks it down into a chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages your DNA and prevents your body from repairing the damage,” which could lead to a cell growing uncontrollably, a prerequisite to a cancer tumor.
Since there are at least six cancers linked to alcohol use, the CDC said you can lower your risk of cancer by drinking less.