Experiments with indoor air quality show the risks of exposure during cooking and cleaning

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

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

When you cook or clean at home, what chemicals are you inhaling and can they be harmful? Colorado State University chemists have given us a solid start to an answer.

In 2018, a large collaborative research experiment took place that attempted to map the air chemistry of a typical home. It was co-chaired by Delphine Farmer, associate professor of chemistry at CSU. The experiment, called HOMEChem, brought 60 scientists from 13 universities to a test center at the University of Texas at Austin to perform typical household activities, such as cooking and cleaning, and use sophisticated instruments to document the resulting chemistry.

In the new newspaper in Environmental science and technology, a CSU farmer’s team took the vast amount of data collected during HOMEChem and sorted it by health impact. They determined how many of the compounds they observed were known human toxins or, based on more recent EPA models, predicted to be likely human toxins. Most of these compounds are released in small amounts and can be cleaned up with proper ventilation. But the impact on health of both individual compounds and their complex mixtures indoors is not sufficiently understood by scientists.

Essence? “Indoor air won’t kill you, but what we’ve found is that indoor air has a lot more — and often at higher levels — of known and potential toxics compared to outdoor air, especially when you’re cooking,” Farmer said. , atmospheric researcher. a chemist who, before this experiment, had spent most of her career measuring more “traditional” toxic substances in outdoor air.

Data management

The data management effort to meaningfully connect data from HOMEChem to toxin databases was led by co-author Anna Hodshire, a former CSU postdoctoral fellow with expertise in atmospheric instrument data analysis.

“I think it’s very interesting that there are so many compounds that are released during normal household activities, and that most of these compounds have not been studied in terms of toxicity,” Hodshire said. “This does not automatically mean that all of these compounds are toxic, but it does indicate that much more work needs to be done to assess some of the compounds that are often released in high concentrations during household activities.”

Among the vast number of compounds measured during HOMEChem, the usual suspects such as benzene and formaldehyde appeared in varying amounts. The lesser-known acrolein, which is a lung toxicant released by lumber and fat heating, emerged as a potential compound of interest for further research, Farmer said. Another compound identified by Hodshire’s analysis was isocyanic acid, which is poorly understood and known to react with proteins in the human body.

Researchers have found that cooking produces more potentially toxic compounds similar to those seen in wildfire smoke, and it made sense to Farmer to think of wildfire as an “extreme way of cooking.”

Gaps in understanding of everyday toxins

Contributing to the body of knowledge about indoor air chemistry with the HOMEChem experiment has given Farmer and her team new insight into how much is lacking in our understanding of our daily exposure to potential toxins.

“Now we’ve done our part, and hopefully there’s enough information for others to understand which compounds are important to study,” Farmer said.

Farmer and co-author Marina Vance of the University of Colorado Boulder led a follow-up HOMEChem experiment called CASA in 2022 that looked more deeply at how chemicals released indoors react to surfaces such as floors, walls and furniture. The results of this experiment will be published.

Scientists discover a whole new world of chemistry by entering the premises

More information:
Anna L. Hodshire et al., A Detailed Study of the Effects of Gaseous Air Pollutants on the Risk of Exposure During Indoor Activities, Environmental science and technology (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c01381

Courtesy of Colorado State University

Citation: Indoor air quality experiments show exposure risks from cooking, cleaning (2022, September 22) retrieved September 22, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-indoor-air-quality-exposure-cooking .html

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