New research suggests that emissions from many common petroleum-based chemical product, such as cleaners, soaps, printing ink, weedkillers and other household products, are surpassing motor vehicle emissions as a major source of air pollution.
In a study published this week in the journal Science, researchers warn that products used on a regular basis are increasingly damaging the environment, especially as auto makers have released vehicles with less emissions in recent years.
Researchers looked at current inventories of industrial production for products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and also focused on samples of outdoor air data, and analyzed models of how particles move from indoor environments to outdoor environments and back.
At one time, vehicle emissions were the greatest source of air pollution. Research indicated air pollution, among other sources of pollution, killed 9 million people worldwide in 2015. However, since motor vehicle pollution has become highly regulated, emissions have decreased in the U.S. and Europe.
In this new study, data suggests that VOCs are now a large rival to vehicle emissions as a source of air pollution. In fact, people use 15 times more fuel by weight than petroleum based products; however, the products contribute to more than half of the VOCs in air pollution in 33 industrialized cities.
VOCs are often a byproduct of many different types of products, including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, soaps, cleaners, hand and body lotion, as well as cologne and perfume.
The study data also indicated that in the United States, VOCs from these products are 2 to 3 times greater than current estimates produced by air pollution inventories.
Researchers indicate, many of the products are commonly used indoors. However, products used indoors which contain VOCs can migrate outdoors, contributing to pollution. Most products which have a smell, contain VOCs that contribute to air pollution.
Air pollution has been widely linked to health concerns affecting the lungs and repository system in both children and adults.
Other research has indicated air pollution has far reaching effects on adults and children, even affecting children’s brain development. One study indicated it can accelerate aging in children, while other data concluded air pollution, even at low levels, increases a person’s risk of premature death.
Researchers warned, current regulations for the chemicals focus on the formation of ozone and releasing dangerous particulates which cause pollution. This should be adjusted.
Study authors also highlight it is important for the average consumer to understand their daily habits are greatly contributing to air pollution in ways they may not know. The focus should be on raising awareness of how these products contribute to air pollution.