Odour of the day

Published: Saturday 15 August 1998

Does your car smell funny to you? Do you get a headache or a runny nose after long drives? Well, cars all across the globe are developing fool smells within a couple of years of leaving the showroom. Who are the culprits? Fungi and bacteria growing in their air-conditioning systems. The fungi can also give motorists and their passengers runny noses, itchy eyes and various other allergic reactions. Robert Simmons and his team at Georgia State University in Atlanta, USA, have recorded at least 15 different types of fungi growing in the foam and glue surrounding the heat exchangers in car air-conditioning systems. Bacteria also form a biofilm on the surface of the heat exchangers, they found. And yet 28 species of fungi grow on this biofilm. Though antimicrobial compounds will treat this problem, the smells will often return. The only sure-fire way to beat the foul odour for good, say experts, is to clean the heat exchangers thoroughly before the compounds are applied.

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