US research has found that chemicals from everyday household products now contribute as much to air pollution in cities worldwide as vehicle emissions.
The study, led from Colorado University, focussed on so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
These are contained in petroleum-based products such as cleaning fluids and paints, and when they get into the air can form particles that affect health. The scientists say the sources of non-vehicle VOCs have been underestimated.
This is a surprising result because by weight, we all use far more fuel than we do these other chemical products. About 95% of raw oil goes into the production of fuels, whereas roughly only 5% is refined for use in chemicals that are included in the likes of deodorants, pesticides, and adhesives.
Brian McDonald and colleagues pulled together a wide range of information for their study.They looked again at the statistics compiled by industries and regulatory agencies; they flew atmospheric sampling missions above Los Angeles to examine the air chemistry; and they also evaluated indoor air quality measurements made by other researchers.
The team concluded that in the US, the amount of VOCs emitted by consumer and industrial products is very probably two or three times greater than estimated by current air pollution inventories. They add that these inventories likely also overestimate the motor vehicle sources…