Safety isn't a glamorous subject but it's nice to know that when you put yourself and your family into a car you'll all be safe. Not just on the road, but sitting there and breathing normally, too.
That's why manufacturers such as Ford are making the effort to put their cars through the rigorous TOXPROOF programme. Organized by the German road traffic organisation the TÜV, TOXPROOF testing isn't required by law, but its tests are incredibly difficult to pass, making any vehicle that does a particularly risk-free place to spend time.
So what's the big deal? Is a car interior really a toxic environment?
Potentially, yes. With all the materials found in the average car interior, its manufacture has involved a lot of chemicals that could be hazardous to human health. That's not to scaremonger, as the risks are incredibly low - but they do exist. A car left in baking sunshine all day can get very hot indeed inside, and some of these materials could potentially release toxic, allergenic and carcinogenic compounds into the air. Colored interior parts could contain Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) that have been linked to cancer.
TOXPROOF tests for all these potentially harmful compounds. Ford of Europe has been testing every model since 2004, and aims to extend the testing to the U.S. as well. Ford's cars have been doing well too: “We also test other manufacturers’ cars,” said the leader of the TOXPROOF programme, Dr Karl Sander, to website Humans Invent.
“But at the moment only Ford has passed. Maybe, within a year, that will change.”
Research suggests that more people than ever before are suffering from allergies so with the wealth of different substances found on the average car interior, it's becoming increasingly important to test for potential allergens too. It's the reason all carmakers fit pollen filters to their ventilation systems now, as a sneezing fit behind the wheel could cause an accident. Part of the TOXPROOF test ensures the air conditioning systems remain free of airborne irritants.
Standards for Europe are currently stricter than for the rest of the world, and Ford of Europe hopes that a uniform standard is applied to ensure all cars are as free as possible from potentially harmful substances.