New research shows that everyday household tasks like cooking and cleaning is leading to levels of air pollution inside homes on par with a polluted major city.
It turns out that your home is not a sanctuary from air pollution. According to researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, cooking, cleaning and other routine household activities generate high levels of volatile and particulate chemicals inside the average home.
What’s more, the airborne chemicals originating inside a house don’t stay there: volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs, from products such as shampoo, perfume and cleaning solutions eventually escape outside and contribute to ozone and fine particle formation, making up an even greater source of global atmospheric air pollution than cars and trucks do, according to a news release.
Marina Vance, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at CU Boulder, led a research project in 2018, which used advanced sensors and cameras to monitor the indoor air quality of a 1,200-square-foot manufactured home on the University of Texas Austin campus. Over the course of a month, she and her colleagues conducted a variety of daily household activities, including cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the Texas summer.
While the experiment’s results are still pending, Vance said that it has become clear that even basic tasks like boiling water over a stovetop flame or making toast can contribute to high levels of gaseous air pollutants and suspended particulates, with negative health impacts.
According to Vance’s colleague Joost de Gouw, the results show that more attention has to now be given to the “esosphere”, derived from the Greek word ‘eso’, which translates to ‘inner.’
“There was originally scepticism about whether or not these products actually contributed to air pollution in a meaningful way, but no longer,” de Gouw said. “Moving forward, we need to re-focus research efforts on these sources and give them the same attention we have given to fossil fuels.”
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