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Now formaldehyde found in Chinese car

Testing time: A Great Wall Haval H6 in China was found to have more than three times the permitted level of the chemical formaldehyde in its cabin air.

Beijing tests reveal danger from airborne chemicals in some Chinese-made cars

17 Dec 2012

HARD on the heels of an asbestos scare that led to a world-wide recall of Chinese-made vehicles, Chinese authorities say they have discovered dangerously high levels of formaldehyde pollution in the cabin air of cars made in the world’s largest car market.

However, it is unclear if the pollutants – widely used in production of plastics and other synthetic materials – leached from the vehicles’ standard parts or unauthorised accessories fitted later by the drivers of the privately owned vehicles that were up to two months old.

Of 48 vehicles tested for eight harmful chemicals, three cars were awarded only one star out of five, showing unacceptable levels of airborne volatile organic chemicals.

ChinaAutoWeb reports that in the worst case, levels of carcinogenic formaldehyde in the cabin of a Great Wall Motors Haval H6 – an SUV not sold in Australia – were found to be more than three times the permitted national maximum in China.

Another dangerous chemical, acetaldehyde, was “a hair below” the national standard.

Great Wall was quick out of the blocks to deny its cars breached the pollution guidelines, saying the excessive amount of formaldehyde found in the specific H6 must have come from defective unauthorised accessories such as floor mats and seat covers fitted by the owner, or from onboard storage of items containing the chemical.

The tests by the Beijing Municipal Institute of Labor Protection in partnership with consumers’ associations from 21 Chinese cities found that the air in Great Wall Haval H6 registered 0.344 parts per million of formaldehyde – well above the Chinese national standard of 0.10 or less.

The level of acetaldehyde was found to be 0.049 – just under the permitted maximum level of 0.05.

Also on the one-star list were two western cars made by Chinese company Dongfeng – a Honda Civic and Peugeot 408.

Eight models received the maximum five stars: Volvo S60, FAW-Toyota RAV4, Dongfeng-Nissan Sylphy (Pulsar), Mazda5, Beijing-Hyundai ix35, Beijing Hyundai Sonata, Dongfeng-Yueda-Kia Sportage R and Brilliance M2 FSV.

In all, 93 per cent of the air quality tests met acceptable standards.

The discovery of formaldehyde in the Chinese-made cars comes just months after asbestos – an illegal substance in cars in Australia – was found in Chinese-made gaskets on Great Wall, Chery and Geely cars shipped to Australia.

More than 24,000 cars – mainly Great Wall utes and SUVs – were recalled over the illegal parts, which were discovered when Australian Customs and Border Protection officers in Western Australia found the carcinogenic substance in a shipment of spare parts.

While gaskets containing the substance are unlikely to be hazardous to vehicle owners or the general public, they could endanger technicians replacing the gaskets.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance emitted from many products, but has been shown to be harmful in excessive quantities.

In 2010, a survey of cosmetics by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) found unsafe levels in some cosmetics, leading to their withdrawal from the market.

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