A team of scientists believes that the source of air pollution is changing drastically given the concerted effort made to make cars as eco-friendly as possible.
Now personal-care products such as perfumes and shampoos, or indoor cleaners, have become one of the most prominent sources of air pollution, as responsible as cars for degrading the environment.
According to Brian McDonald, a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the lead author of the study, "Over time, the transportation sector has been getting cleaner when it comes to emissions of air pollutants. And as those emissions come down, the sources of air pollution are becoming more diverse."
The study Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions in published in Science journal on February 16.
The study mainly focused on a certain class or type of chemicals which are known to give off volatile organic compounds or VOCs.
These petroleum-based odorous substances are known to contribute toward Ozone formation or even small-particulate pollution both of which are very harmful to the environment.
The research revealed how the contribution of these chemicals to air pollution has previously been underestimated and unchecked, and the problem has only grown.
These volatile compounds have complex origins and sources, whether they emerge from trees and grass or from man-made pollutants like cars, shampoos, and perfumes.
These volatile compounds are also found in many consumer as well as industrial products and new research specifically talks about pesticides, printing inks, coatings, adhesives, cleaning agents, as well as personal care products which are believed to be a key source of VOCs.
When it comes to pesticides, some chemical products give off these VOCs outdoors whereas in other cases, emissions occur indoors and move outdoors.
One of the authors said that if the giveaway of the product has a smell, then you would know how relevant/ harmful it is.
According to Chris Cappa, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, "Say somebody is inside using perfume, cologne, that smell eventually dissipates. And the question is, where did it go. And there's air exchange with the outside. Those odors dissipate because it's basically getting moved outside. It's just taking that indoor air and exchanging it with the outdoor air. It's not that hard to get things from the indoor environment outside."
McDonald and Cappa worked hand in hand along with a research team of 19 members from NOAA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and multiple universities in the United States and Canada.
This research does not mean that inhaling perfumes or shampoos indoors is bad for you but when they are released into the air and interact with sunlight and other chemicals in the air, they start to undergo reactions which can contribute towards air pollution.
Jessica Gilman, a researcher with NOAA, said, "What we really want to do with this study is just sort of raise the awareness, that this is now - in terms of air-quality implications, for some of these large industrialized cities - this is an important component of trying to meet these air-quality standards."
The study was based on many different types of approaches sampling outdoor air data, observing how particles move from indoor environments to outdoor and vice versa. There was a follow-up research conducted in Los Angeles which confirmed the prevalence of VOCs in the air as per the conclusions and research of the authors.
According to Brent Stephens, an expert on indoor air and the built environment at the Illinois Institute of Technology, "We typically think of outdoor air pollution as an outdoor problem," Stephens added. "But this study demonstrates (quantitatively) that it's more complicated than that."
These are some ways that we can all attempt to reduce air pollution:
6) Car Pool
Instead of going one person or two people by car to the same location, it would really benefit the environment if you were able to coordinate with your co-workers to carpool to the same location. This will help reduce the number of cars on the road as well as be a much cheaper option than traveling the same distance by yourself. Carpooling can definitely help to reduce the number of hydrocarbons, nitrogen, oxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide in the air.
5) Reduce Long Lines
Standing in long lines especially drive-thru's with your engine running continuously is extremely bad for the environment and this contributes greatly to air pollution. While you are stuck at a parking light or a drive-thru, it is a must that you switch your engine off even if you had to do it for just about 30 seconds. Every little effort will help.
4) Smoke Outside The Home
Instead of smoking outdoors, it is much better if you smoke indoors rather than contribute towards 65% of asthma cases. According to the American Institute of Architects, secondhand smoke is responsible for the deterioration of health in children and can lead to many respiratory diseases and complications.
3) Refuel In The Evening
According to the EPA, it is advisable not to fill fuel in your cars on Ozone Action Days as cars and tracks are accountable for over one-third of the air pollution. In fact, filling fuel in the evening can cut down evaporation emissions that reduce air pollutants.
2) Wash Clothes With Warm or Cold Water
Instead of washing your clothes with hot water, it is advised that you use either warm water or cold water to rinse your clothes as this will help you save energy. When you use warm water for your loads of laundry you are actually going to be saving about 500 pounds of air pollution. When your clothes are on a rinse cycle, then it is a must to use cold water.
1) Conserve Energy
Attempting to conserve and save energy at home is a great way to reduce air pollution. It is a must to turn off all appliances and electronics when they are not in use. Less energy will result in less carbon dioxide emission which helps produce energy. One must use energy saving products which will help you save money as well as the environment.
This video explains what indoor pollution means and what its implications are:
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