The German luxury car maker Volvo's S80, V70 and XC70 models have been approved by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association for those suffering from allergies, as the cabins have been designed to provide a safe interior environment for them.
To ensure the quality of the air in passenger car compartments, Volvo decided to establish specifications and institute testing for car interiors in the mid-1990s. The purpose was to create an environment inside the car that was also safe for those known to hypersensitive allergics. In 1998, Volvo S80 was the first model in which this work was incorporated.
Up to 45 per cent of the population in the industrialy advanced nations are estimated to suffer from some form of allergy, of which over 10 per cent have asthma.
One of the reasons for the dramatic increase in such ailments since the 1950s can be attributed to the rise in air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ground-level ozone, particulates and pollen.
One of Volvo's objectives in designing vehicles with cabins for the hyper-alletrgics was to ensure that the air quality inside the cabin was cleaner than the air outside.
What is often referred to as the "new car smell" is actually low levels of emissions from materials such as PVC plastics and certain metals. These emission levels are so low that they do not present any health hazard, but when the car becomes warm, the emissions concentrations may increase, aggravating the hypersensitive. Though these substances are quickly vented out of the cabin, Volvo aimed at providing a completely odour-free environment.
The automaker says that work on the interior environment can be divided into two main areas - air quality and contact allergies. To ensure that the air entering the cabin is as clean as possible, Volvo has developed two systems: IAQS (interior air quality system ) and CZIP (clean zone interior package).
IAQS monitors the quality of the incoming air and automatically closes the air vents if the levels of harmful substances become too high. A multi-filter removes particulates and pollen but also uses a layer of active charcoal to remove odours and ground-level ozone.
The air in a Volvo car fitted with IAQS is below the minimum limits stipulated by the World Health Organisation's limits for urban environments.CZIP ensures that the air in the car is automatically vented out within one minute from the time the car is unlocked with the remote control.
In order to avoid emissions from materials in the cabin, a careful selection of materials is made at an early stage. Tests are conducted in which interior components are heated in ovens in order to measure the effect on air quality.
Volvo conducts tests in three format comprising individual components, systems and entire car. Sun simulations are conducted on entire cars in which the car is heated to 65 degrees (149 degrees F) for several hours to make it possible to compare with an actual situation on a hot summer day.
These tests are supplemented by Volvo Car Corporation's "nose team," whose members smell different objects to determine if their odour is acceptable or too strong.
In the work to counteract contact allergies, the amount of nickel released from metallic surfaces is minimised and a natural plant extract is used instead of chrome for tanning leather. All textiles and leather in Volvo's cars meet the requirements in the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, an international institute that monitors harmful substances in textiles.
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