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Is Your Car's Interior a Bacteria Breeding Ground?

Ford partnered with researchers at the University of Michigan to analyze bacteria-breeding hotspots in company- and employee-owned Ford vehicles. After evaluating their samples, the researchers found a special paint that can decrease microbe growth and may be used in future Ford models.

Researchers collected samples from 10 areas in vehicle cabins, including radio buttons, window switches, gear shift knobs, door handles and the steering wheel. Of the 10 areas, the steering wheel and the area around the cup holders had the most bacteria. Microbial Ecologist Dr. Blaise Boles says the samples helped pinpoint the common forms of microorganisms that thrive in vehicles.

After testing several paints that are used to coat cabin surfaces, the researchers discovered that a paint infused with Agion, which sterilizes and starves microbes, had the least microbial growth. “Not only did the paint help with bacteria growth, but it also had very little effect on gloss and color changes of the surfaces, which researchers found during an accelerated aging simulation of the surfaces,” says Motor Trend. Ford plans to use Agion in future vehicles.

MSN notes it’s no surprise that steering wheels and cup holders are some of the nastiest places in cars, but agrees with Ford that efforts should be taken to increase cabin cleanliness. “In cars and trucks, these microscopic organisms including mold and mildew can quickly take hold and spread over a variety of surfaces leading to discoloration, and even unpleasant odors.” Cindy Peters, Ford Motor Company technical expert, says Ford’s goal is to make interiors “a cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing environment.”

Ford and the University of Michigan’s study has its limits. Only Ford vehicles were used, and the study doesn’t distinguish between bacterial growth and the materials used in cars and trucks from other automakers.  

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