About one in three people in modern society suffer from some type of hypersensitivity. For example, 10% of women are allergic to nickel, while 5% of the entire population suffer from hand eczema, and the incidence of allergic asthma is increasing sharply in societies with high standards of living.
As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for a responsible carmaker like Volvo to understand and meet the needs of customers with allergic ailments.
“We are focusing mainly on three areas in dealing with these new challenges,” says Anders Högström, environmental coordinator for interior and climate system technology. “These involve the air in the cabin, the air admitted by the climate system and the issue of contact allergies.”
In each case, the aim is to reduce or preferably eliminate dust, pollen and other allergenic substances which have, or may have, adverse effects on human health and well-being.
No unpleasant smells
“A new Volvo must smell like a Volvo,” explains Anders Högström. “That perception must not be disturbed by exposing the customer to odours such as hydrocarbons.”
For this reason, Volvo Cars imposes strict demands on its interior trim components. Meeting the requirements calls not only for the right materials, but also the right production processes.
The air admitted to the cabin contains contamination from traffic and industrial sources in the form of exhaust gas particulates, ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide etc. Substances of this nature can irritate and damage the respiratory tract and lungs.
“We at Volvo Cars have designed a ventilation system that minimises these effects,” continues Anders Högström. “Known as IAQS (Interior Air Quality System), this can close the air intake and activate the recirculation function if the level of contaminants in the immediate vicinity of the car becomes too high. In addition, the system is equipped with a special filter to trap particles and certain gases.”
Hexavalent chromium in leather, together with nickel in pushbuttons and controls, is a problem for increasing numbers of people. Since 1998, the upholstery fabrics and leathers used in Volvo cars have been tested in accordance with the ÖkoTex 100 standard. These materials are checked for allergenic dyes, chhlorinated phenols and heavy metals.
Volvo Cars has, on its own initiative, decided to apply the EU standard governing the use of nickel in metal objects subject to frequent or long-term contact. The company also uses leathers tanned with natural vegetable-based materials to eliminate hexavalent chromium – another substance which can cause contact allergies.
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