Beware of Dying from Ink Pollution
Numerous products of daily use, among which are from some types of printer ink, to paints, pesticides, adhesives or substances for household cleaning and personal hygiene, contain hydrocarbon derivatives potentially dangerous to health.
A study led by experts from the United States and Canada now shows that the presence of these new pollutants, mostly Volatile Organic Compounds, is increasing in the urban environment and in some areas can, on the whole, be a detriment for air quality comparable to that generated by vehicles with combustion engines.
The authors of this research, published in the journal Science on February 16, warn that while control measures and public awareness are curbing the air pollution caused by traffic, the problems caused by these new pollutants are growing.
The results of this new research on health and the urban environment found a “surprisingly high” contribution of VOCs as vehicle emissions decrease, according to scientists at the Cooperative Research Institute for Environmental Sciences of the United States.
“Perfume, paint and other products contribute to air pollution as much as the transportation industry does,” said the study’s lead author, Brian McDonald, a scientist in the Chemical Sciences division of NOAA of the United States.
“As transportation becomes cleaner, those other sources become more and more important,” McDonald said.
Thus, this type of everyday products now rivals the emissions of motor vehicles as the main source of urban air pollution.
In the case of one type of pollution, small particles that can damage people’s lungs, the particle-forming emissions of chemicals are about twice as high as those of the transport sector, according to the study.
Volatile organic compounds can enter the atmosphere and react to produce ozone or particles, both regulated in the United States and in many other countries because of their impact on health, including lung damage.
In recent decades, much of the air pollution came from emissions from cars and trucks or from leaking gas pumps.
That is why regulators and car manufacturers made changes that limit the pollution of engines, fuels and pollution control systems.
McDonald and colleagues reevaluated sources of air pollution by classifying recent chemical production statistics compiled by industries and regulatory agencies, making detailed measurements of atmospheric chemistry in the air of Los Angeles and evaluating measurements of indoor air quality performed by others.
The scientists concluded that the amount of volatile organic compounds emitted by consumer and industrial products is currently two or three times higher than that estimated by current inventories of air pollution, which also overestimates vehicle sources.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, for example, estimates that approximately 75% of the emissions come from vehicular sources, and about 25% from chemical products.
The new study, with its detailed evaluation of updated statistics on the use of chemical products and previously unavailable atmospheric data, rates the distribution by 50% each.
In the course of that work, they also determined that people are exposed to very high concentrations of volatile organic compounds in indoor spaces
“Indoor concentrations are often ten times higher than outdoor concentrations, and that is consistent with a scenario in which petroleum-based products used indoors provide a significant source of outdoor air in urban environments,” summarized Allen Goldstein, another of the co-authors.
In parallel, a study published earlier in the Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, from the American Thoracic Society, indicates that household cleaning products can be as harmful to a woman’s lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes at the same time a day.