Perfumes = Indoor Pollution!

The notion of air pollutants is revolutionising with the ever-increasing urbanisation. Simply put, dissipation of air pollutants is not limited to smoke chimneys, exhausts or car fuels. The sprays with which you clean your house, the paints you use to decorate your house with and even the perfumes to mask your odour have now become potential air pollutants. Yes, you read it right! A study released on 17th Feb 2018 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) researchers hint at paying attention to our household products that release harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). The study showed that 50% of air pollution is due to human-induced VOC emissions and the other 50% is due to chemical products. Now, who could have even thought about equating detrimental effect of car fuel emission to that of your favourite spray bottles? But as vehicular emissions have been brought under control by regulation of laws and Clean Air Act, VOC released by household products have started to elevate up the pollution proportion.

Let us now understand what VOC are and how they impact our environment. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are natural, short-lived, highly reactive compounds that act as a sink for Methane gas by absorbing it. On reacting with sunlight and other gases present in the atmosphere, they produce Troposphere Ozone (Smog) and Particulate matter which penetrates our respiratory tracts. VOC are also harmful indoors despite the absence of sunlight by causing irritation in the eyes and lungs, headaches, and allergies.

Information from the EPA’s National Emissions Inventory failed to track household products induced emission. That’s where NOAA-led study came into play. But it was tricky to measure which and how much pollutants are released with each spray. Almost all the ingredients mentioned at the back of product bodies fall under the category of fragrances. The researchers had to do a minute and detailed study to reach a correct estimation with advanced high-tech tools. The NOAA instrument is capable of measuring a wide range of VOC comprising compounds containing oxygen atoms like Ethanol, Acetone, and Isopropanol at minute concentrations with high accuracy.

However, this isn’t the first time that household products rang an alarming bell to our ears. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) from aerosol cans ripping a hole through the Ozone layer led to the Montreal Protocol. It was a global agreement that significantly decreased the number of CFC in the atmosphere and prevented the destruction of our planet’s Ozone layer.

To conclude, vehicular emissions and VOC from your spray bottles run side-by-side to harm the environment and you. And everything can be prevented if we wish to “choose” wisely. Choosing water-based paints and organic sprays can help reduce emissions. You can also plant indoor plants to filter the air you breathe in. Using hair-sprays less will prevent damage to both your hair and lungs

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