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Interior pollution problem in mass-market car brands

Shanghai Daily - Cancer-causing substances have been found in mass-market brands of cars sold in China.

Four foreign brands, including General Motors' Chevrolet, and a Chinese make, were found with toxic materials in locally produced or imported models, China Central Television reported yesterday.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a highly poisonous compound which can damage human genes if breathed in or is in contact with the skin, was detected in steering wheel and headrest samples of five car models among around 40 by Center Testing International, a third-party laboratory officially recognized by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment.

The affected models were the Chang'an Yuexiang with 23.5 mg/kg PAH found in the surface materials of its steering wheel and headrest, the Mitsubishi Outland with 6.8 mg/kg, Hyundai Santa Fe with 5.4 mg/kg, Shanghai GM Chevrolet Aveo with 7 mg/kg, and Chang'an Suzuki Alto SX4 with 6.4 mg/kg.

Xiu Yu, who oversees an auto website in China and initiated the testing project, said he had received many reports about people feeling unwell and dizzy after driving, which was what prompted him to look into the in-vehicle contamination issue.

He said he chose steering wheels and headrests for the tests because drivers were in regular contact with them and he began to source samples from dealerships in the middle of last year.

Xiu told CCTV that the tests were "blind" with no labels or maker's name attached.

Currently, China has no official limit for the amount of PAH in vehicle interiors while Europe and US, for example, have strict standards.

The Chevrolet Aveos and Suzuki Alto SX4s sold in Germany were not found to have PAH in their steering wheels according to a test initiated by CCTV.

China's only guideline for limiting harmful substance inside cars is optional, which means manufacturers are not obligated to ensure a clean environment inside the cabin, and consumers don't have the right to seek compensation for any related health problems.

Sources of pollution can be materials such as leather, textiles, plastics and other parts processed with poisonous chemicals. Glue, paint and diluting agents can also be the source.

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