Your shampoo, perfume, deodorant and other everyday household products could be as dangerous as car pollution, new research suggests.
Scientists studying air pollution in Los Angeles, writing in the journal Science, said the way we produce air pollution has changed in recent years. Up to half of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air may now come from domestic products, which include beauty and grooming products, perfumes, paint, pesticides and bleach.
While the study was carried out in the US, the researchers said the findings could be applied to other industrialised cities and suburbs, too.
Previously, most of these harmful compounds came from the transport sector, but "as transportation gets cleaner, those other sources become more and more important,” said lead author Brian McDonald. “The stuff we use in our everyday lives can impact air pollution.”
The compounds, which degrade into particles known as PM2.5, can cause breathing problems and lung damage and have been blamed for 29,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. PM2.5 particles are one of the biggest known causes of air pollution around the world and vehicle emissions have often been blamed as the main contributor.
However as countries have made improvements in this area, the researchers highlighted the need to tackle other sources of pollution, too, including everyday household products. Joost de Gouw, from the University of Colorado Boulder, said that while we only use a small amount of these products compared to fuel in our daily lives, "fuel is combusted very efficiently" with just a small amount making its way into the atmosphere.
Our cleaning and grooming products, meanwhile, have a more severe impact as the VOCs form ozone and PM2.5 particles, making them a health risk. Co-author Jessica Gilman, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said: "Volatile chemical products used in common solvents and personal care products are literally designed to evaporate. You wear perfume or use scented products so that you or your neighbour can enjoy the aroma. You don’t do this with gasoline,” reported Huff Post UK. She advised people to reduce the amount of product they use or use only unscented products.
The findings of another new study from Norway also highlighted the health damage caused by cleaning products. Researchers found that everyday cleaning sprays could be doing as much damage to women's lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
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