Making a simple breakfast toast could contribute to a high level of indoor air pollution, say researchers.
According to a research by the University of Colorado Boulder, basic household tasks like boiling water or cooking your dinner or cleaning can leave your home as polluted as a major city.
"Homes have never been considered an important source of outdoor air pollution and the moment is right to start exploring that," said Marina Vance, Assistant Professor at the varsity.
"Even the simple act of making toast raised particle levels far higher than expected," she added.
For the study, Vance used advanced sensors and cameras to monitor the indoor air quality of a 1,200 square feet manufactured home. Over the course of a month, the team carried out a variety of daily household activities, including cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner. During the experiment, the measured indoor concentrations were high enough that their sensitive instruments needed to be recalibrated almost immediately.
Vance said it is apparent that homes need to be well ventilated while cooking and cleaning, because even basic tasks like boiling water over a stove top flame can contribute to high levels of gaseous air pollutants and suspended particulates, with negative health impacts.
Moreover, the airborne chemicals that originate inside a house do not stay there. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from products such as shampoo, perfume and cleaning solutions eventually escape outside and contribute to ozone and fine particle formation, making up an even greater source of global atmospheric air pollution than cars and trucks do, the researchers explained in the paper presented at the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington.
While many traditional sources like fossil fuel-burning vehicles have become much cleaner than they used to be, and ozone and fine particulates are monitored by the US Environmental Protection Agency, but data for airborne toxins like formaldehyde and benzene and compounds like alcohol and ketones that originate from the home are very sparse.
"We need to re-focus research efforts on these sources and give them the same attention we have given to fossil fuels. The picture that we have in our heads about the atmosphere should now include a house," the researchers said.