FEB 18, 2019 3:10 PM PST

Household chores linked to air pollution

New research suggests that household tasks such as cooking and cleaning have significant impact on air pollution, generating particulate chemicals that leaves some homes as polluted inside as major cities outside. The research comes from scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder who led HOMEChem, a field campaign which used sensors and cameras to monitor the indoor air quality of a manufactured home under various scenarios.

"Homes have never been considered an important source of outdoor air pollution and the moment is right to start exploring that," said co-leader of HOMEChem, Marina Vance, who is also an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at CU Boulder. "We wanted to know: How do basic activities like cooking and cleaning change the chemistry of a house?"

What did they find? These basic activities, like making toast or boiling water with a gas stove, create significant levels of gaseous air pollutants and suspended particulates and can be a threat to residents living in the home, especially if the house is not well-ventilated. The scientists even had to recalibrate their monitoring instruments after certain cooking or cleaning tasks because these activities so greatly heightened indoor concentrations.

In addition to polluting the indoor environment of a home, the researchers found that the chemical pollutants from cleaning supplies (called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) easily slip out into the greater atmosphere, creating another source of air pollution outside as well. Their contribution to ozone and fine particle formation accounts for even more global atmospheric air pollution than cars and trucks do, reports Science Daily.

"[While] many traditional sources like fossil fuel-burning vehicles have become much cleaner than they used to be, data for airborne toxins like formaldehyde and benzene and compounds like alcohols and ketones that originate from the home are very sparse," said CU Boulder’s Joost de Gouw, who published similar research regarding the danger of household chemical pollutants in Science last year.

How is the air pollution inside your home? Photo: Pixabay

The researchers’ findings were presented recently at the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. "There was originally skepticism 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. The picture that we have in our heads about the atmosphere should now include a house." More research is needed in order to recommend policy changes and consumer behavior, the researchers say.

Sources: Science Daily, HomeChem

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUN 24, 2022
Plants & Animals
New research strengthens understanding of how animals see, and in what colors
JUN 24, 2022
New research strengthens understanding of how animals see, and in what colors
We’ve all what animals see. Do they see the same way humans do in terms of colors, or is the vision of each animal ...
JUL 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Can liquid water exist for billions of years on non-Earth-like exoplanets?
JUL 06, 2022
Can liquid water exist for billions of years on non-Earth-like exoplanets?
In a collaborative research effort from the University of Bern, the University of Zurich, and National Centre of Compete ...
JUL 08, 2022
Plants & Animals
Oilseed Plant Camelina Has Potential as an Aviation Biofuel
JUL 08, 2022
Oilseed Plant Camelina Has Potential as an Aviation Biofuel
Camelina, an oilseed currently grown in what is now Ukraine, is a grain product that has been cultivated for thousands o ...
JUL 22, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Scientists conduct first genetic diversity census of common dolphins
JUL 22, 2022
Scientists conduct first genetic diversity census of common dolphins
A recent and comprehensive study out of Flinders University in Australia that was published in BMC Ecology and Evolution ...
JUL 26, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Formation of toxic ketene likely caused by vaping cannabinoid acetates
JUL 26, 2022
Formation of toxic ketene likely caused by vaping cannabinoid acetates
A recent peer-reviewed study conducted at Portland State University and slated to be published in Chemical Research and ...
AUG 09, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Tropical ozone hole larger than Antarctic ozone hole
AUG 09, 2022
Tropical ozone hole larger than Antarctic ozone hole
In a recent single-author study published in AIP Advances, Qing-Bin Lu, a scientist from the University of Waterloo in O ...
Loading Comments...