Do you avoid drinking out of clear plastic water bottles, using antiperspirants with aluminum, or cooking in non-stick pans? Use a water purifier and ionizer everywhere you go, always buy organic, mind your cold-water fish list, and have your tap water checked yearly?
If so, we've found either a new source of anxiety in your life or a handy tool to factor into your next car purchase.
HealthyStuff.org is a relatively new information portal for the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Ecology Center, which uses an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device to test interior components in vehicles for substances "with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment."
The organization first considers existing product standards, then samples toxins detectable from surfaces that occupants will have contact with or interior surfaces that will outgas with heat or UV exposure—looking for lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, chlorine/PVC, bromine/BFRs, antimony, tin, and chromium and measuring parts per million (ppm).
Products are assigned low, medium, or high risk level ratings depending on the number of chemicals/toxins present at high levels.
The levels of toxins vary widely from model to model and aren't consistent across types of vehicles or manufacturers. Vehicles are assigned an indexed score from 0.0 (best) to 5.0 (worst) depending on those levels. For instance, the Chevrolet Cobalt is the best currently-made model, with a level of just 0.7, but the Chevrolet Aveo has a 4.8 and is the worst-rated car, with lead in many places like the door trim, steering wheel, and center console.
Although TheCarConnection.com can't vouch for the organization's methodology, the site is well worth checking out. The group also tests children's products, toys, pet products, and apparel.
Here are HealthyStuff.org's Best Vehicle Picks from 2009:
2009 Chevrolet Cobalt
- Pontiac G5
- Chevrolet Cobalt
- Toyota Corolla
- Honda Accord
- Nissan Cube Krom
- Honda Insight Hybrid
- Jeep Wrangler
- Toyota Prius
- Honda Civic Hybrid