Toxic Air: when not even my new van is safe.

Old Not-So-Reliable (also known as my laptop) is back from the computer doctor… finally.  Hence the lag in posting of late.

So here I am, with a (hopefully) fixed computer, a broken car and a new-to-us van that I am supposed to be able to drive…. but that’s where today’s rant comes in (and yes, it will be a rant, sorry).

We bought the four year old van a few weeks ago.  The dealership oh-so-helpfully decided to ‘freshen’ the air in the van before we picked it up.  When The Husband brought it home, my five minute test drive resulted in a pounding headache, itchy skin and eyes so dry and itchy I wanted to scratch them out of their sockets.

Not what I would call fresh air.

It turns out the dealer ran a chemical cleaner through the air conditioning system.  They said the smell would dissipate within a few weeks (though now the story has changed to a few months).  Seriously… it the air is supposed to be ‘fresh’ why does it reek of chemicals?

I have since looked up the source of the problem and discovered the product promotes itself promising “fresh, clean, healthy air.”  It goes on to claim people can avoid the breathing problems, allergies and hypersensitivities that may come from mold spores in an unclean vehicle by using their product.  The company’s solution is to saturate the vehicle, through the air conditioning system, with a chemical cleaning solution.  Yet the product’s own information sheet says prolonged exposure to skin can cause irritation and that inhalation can irritate the nose and upper respiratory tract.

Further research showed the product in question is made with propylene glycol.  Any guesses what I found when I looked up the side effects of this particular chemical (which, by the way, can be found in shampoos, soaps, baby wipes, anti-freeze, laundry detergent, pesticide and brake and hydraulic fluids, among other things)?  This chemical can easily penetrate the skin, weaken protein and cellular structure.  The US based Environmental Protection Agency warns factory workers to avoid skin contact to prevent brain, liver and kidney abnormalities.  Chronic exposure can cause gastro-intestinal disturbances, nausea, headache and vomiting.

Some might claim those are risks to people working directly with the chemical but I have been breathing the remnants of this solution each time I get in the van and am having many of those very reactions.  My system may be a bit more sensitive than others but does that mean it is safe for my kids and husband to breathe that same air?  I think not.

The David Suzuki Foundation lists propylene glycol among the ‘Dirty Dozen Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid’ and says Health Canada has flagged it as moderate human health priority and flagged it for future consideration.

We live in a world inundated with artificial scents and unnecessary chemicals. The solution from my car dealership as to spray an air freshener inside the van.  As if adding more chemicals to the mix is going to help.  Recent reports show our cells contain more than 400 toxins that simply didn’t exists 45 years ago.

I am still consistently surprised by what marketers and manufactures claim are safe and ‘fresh.’  No wonder we have an epidemic of cancer and allergies in the Western world.  We are polluting not only our environment and but ourselves and our children.

For now, I’m stuck with a toxic van and little recourse.  I sincerely hope the two boxes of baking soda I spread all over the interior of the van will do something since my car is in the shop.  Next step will be to steam clean with vinegar and hot water… better a vinegar smell than toxic fumes and I certainly won’t be buying an air freshener like the ever-so-helpful salesman suggested.

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One Response to Toxic Air: when not even my new van is safe.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Try replacing the "air intake filter!" Most people never replace them and they are full of crud that gets sucked in while driving.

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