Indoor air quality experiments show exposure risks during cooking and cleaning

Environmental science and technology (2022). DOI: 10.1021 / acs.est.2c01381″ width=”500″ height=”276″/>

Graphic abstract. attributed to him: Environmental science and technology (2022). DOI: 10.1021 / acs.est.2c01381

When you cook or clean inside your home, what chemicals do you breathe in, and are they likely to be harmful? Chemists at Colorado State University gave us a head start on the answer.

A large collaborative research experiment that attempted to map the airborne chemistry of a model home was conducted in 2018 and was co-led by Delphine Farmer, associate professor in the CSU Department of Chemistry. The experiment, called HOMEChem, brought 60 scientists from 13 universities to a test house at the University of Texas at Austin to perform typical household activities such as cooking and cleaning and using sophisticated tools to document the resulting chemistry.

In a new paper in Environmental science and technologyThe Farmer team at CSU took huge amounts of data collected during HOMEChem and sorted them by health effects. set how much Residential complexes They note that human toxins are known, or, based on newer EPA models, expected to be human toxins. Most of these compounds are emitted in low quantities and can be purged through proper ventilation. but the health effects Both the individual compounds and their complex mixtures inside are not well understood by scientists.

Bottom line? “Indoor air won’t kill you, but we find that indoor air contains more — and often at higher levels — known and potential air toxins versus outdoors, particularly when cooking,” Farmer said. A chemist, prior to this experience, she had spent most of her career measuring “conventional” outdoor air toxins.

data management

a job data management To purposefully link data from HOMEChem to toxicology databases, it was led by co-author Anna Hodshire, a former postdoctoral researcher at CSU who is skilled at analyzing data from atmospheric devices.

“I think it’s interesting that there are a lot of compounds that are emitted from common household activities, and that the majority of these compounds have not been studied from a toxicity perspective,” Hodshire said. “This does not automatically mean that all of these compounds are toxic – but it does indicate the fact that there is a lot of work to be done to evaluate some of the compounds that are frequently emitted in high concentrations from household activities.”

Of the wide range of compounds measured during HOMEChem, the usual suspects, such as benzene and formaldehyde, appeared in varying amounts. The lesser known acrolein, a lung toxin that emits from wood and heats up fats, has emerged as an important potential compound for further investigation, Farmer said. Another compound that originated from Hodshire analysis is isocyanic acid, which has not been well studied and is known to interact with proteins in human body.

The researchers found that cooking activities produced greater amounts of potentially toxic compounds, similar to some of the compounds seen in wildfire smoke — which makes sense for Farmer, when you think of wildfires as just an “extreme form of cooking.”

Gaps in the understanding of everyday toxins

Contribute to the body of knowledge around indoor air Chemistry through HOMEChem Farmer and her team’s experiment has given new appreciation for how little we understand our daily exposure to potential toxins.

“We’ve done our part now, and hopefully there will be enough information for others to pick up on the charge and know what compounds are important to study,” Farmer said.

Farmer and collaborator Marina Vance of the University of Colorado Boulder led a follow-up experiment for HOMEChem in 2022 called CASA, which delved more into how chemicals released indoors interact with surfaces such as floors, walls and furniture. The results of that experiment are imminent.


Scientists reveal a whole new world of chemistry by stepping inside


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Anna L. Environmental science and technology (2022). DOI: 10.1021 / acs.est.2c01381

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