The unmistakable smell of a new car -- a mix of fresh plastic, paint, and upholstery may be linked to a toxic cocktail of harmful chemicals, prompting Japanese automakers to attempt to tone down the smell. Their push to reduce cabin concentrations of the fumes could spur similar action by U.S. and European rivals. VOCs The new-car smell comes largely from chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These leach from glues, paints, vinyls and plastics in the passenger compartment. They have been known to cause headaches, sore throats, nausea, and drowsiness, and prolonged exposure to high concentrations can lead to cancer. Sitting in a new car can subject riders to toxic emissions several times above the safety limits. The problem tends to dissipate after about six months. Matching Guidelines for Homes Earlier this year, Japanese automakers agreed to cut cabin levels of 13 of the compounds, including possible cancer-causing agents such as styrene and formaldehyde, to match guidelines for air quality in homes. This marks the first time automakers have adopted government guidelines on the matter. U.S. Has No Regulations for Most VOCs The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets no guidelines for volatile organic compounds in non-industrial settings. Formaldehyde, however, one of the potentially cancer-causing substances present in new cars, is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. USA Today September 26, 2005 Dr. Mercola's Comment:I've discussedVOCs beforeinthis newsletter-- they can be emitted from many items found aboutyour home and inyour environment, including:Solvents Paints Hobby supplies Floor adhesives Cleaning products Polishes Room fresheners Fitted carpet It's great that Japanese automakers are taking this initiative, and I hope the idea spreads. After all, some of the VOCs -- such as styrene and formaldehyde -- can potentially give you cancer. Toxins are all around us and if you want to increase your awareness of the potential dangers that you might not have known about I would encourage you to reviewthe 10 most common toxins that surround you and how to protect your family from them. Some useful methods include:Buy and eat, as much as possible, organic produce and free-range, organic foods. Rather than eating fish, which is largely contaminated with PCBs and mercury, consume a high-quality purified fish or cod liver oil.Avoid processed foods -- remember that they're processed with chemicals!Only use natural cleaning products in your home. Most health food stores will have these available or you can search on line for them.Switch over to natural brands of toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.Remove any metal fillings as they're a major source of mercury. Be sure to have this done by a qualified biological dentist.Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances as they can pollute the air you are breathing.Avoid artificial food additives of all kind, including artificial sweeteners and MSG.Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath).