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Researchers: Household Products Threatening Our Air

Household cleaning products can cause air pollution and health issues for people. (cdc.gov)
Household cleaning products can cause air pollution and health issues for people. (cdc.gov)
February 27, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – Because cars are now dramatically cleaner than they used to be, products such as skin lotions and indoor cleaners are becoming the dominant source of urban air emissions, according to a new study.

University of Colorado lead author and scientist Brian McDonald says common household products such as printer ink or cleaning agents are now a major cause for concern because the transportation industry is much cleaner than it was 50 to 100 years ago.

"What this means is that, as emissions from tailpipe sources come down, then other sources from everyday use of chemical products - things like pesticides, paints, perfumes - are becoming a more and more important source of emissions of these volatile organic compounds," he explains.

The study was published in the journal Science and conducted by CU's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

McDonald's study measured "volatile organic compounds" - which play a significant role in the formation of ozone and fine particulates in the atmosphere. He notes that tiny particles damage people's lungs.

"Fine particulate matter is one of the largest sources of human health impacts when you're thinking about air pollution," he warns.

He says those volatile compounds are commonly found in fumes generated by furniture polish, detergents, soaps, pesticides and other petroleum-based products.

McDonald says, in terms of meeting air-quality standards, it's important to know that what we use in our everyday lives is impacting air pollution.

"And what we found was that the concentration of chemicals is roughly seven times higher than in the outdoor air," says McDonald. "Just pointing out that when you're considering exposure to air pollution, it's not just what you breathe outdoors, but it's also what you breathe indoors as well."

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN