I have a trusted neighbour who is always telling me to ventilate the house well, to keep the windows open at least for a little. He has been saying for years that the air inside the house is much more polluted than the air in the street. And, just today, I heard about a couple of scientific articles published in 2018 that prove my wise neighbour right.
Detergents and other household consumer products pollute city air more than cars
According to these studies, 50% of air pollution in large cities, linked to fossil fuels, no longer comes from car engines, heaters and air conditioners, but from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by household products such as cosmetics, paints, cleaning products, printing inks or glues.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are molecules present in petroleum products
And what are VOCs? Well, they are molecules, almost always derived from oil, that are very easy to volatilize, that is, to leave the liquid or solid in which they are found and go into the air. They are made up of carbon and other types of atoms.
In principle this should not be a problem, but when these molecules are in the air in our homes or on our streets they produce negative health effects: they irritate the eyes and airways, affect the nervous and cardiovascular systems, some are carcinogenic, others produce mutations in our DNA and some interfere with the endocrine system causing infertility.
In addition, when VOCs are oxidised, they are transformed into very small particles (PM2.5) which are some of the most harmful particles in urban pollution.
The concentration of VOCs in homes can be up to 10 times higher than outside
Most of the gels, detergents, softeners, glass cleaners ... available on our supermarket shelves are full of molecules designed to evaporate, so especially in the closed spaces of homes where these conventional products are used, the concentration of VOCs is very high if they are not well ventilated. Hence the importance in keeping the windows open, even just slightly, so that the air inside is recycled.
For a toxic-free home
Of course, in addition to ventilation, it is advisable to dispense with all these products that make our home an unsafe place. It is also the responsibility of the authorities to legislate, to limit or eliminate the content of harmful substances in household products so improving the quality of the air we breathe both inside and outside the home.
“The changing face of urban air pollution” Alastair C. Lewis. (2018) Science. Vol 359, pp. 744-745 (2018)
“Volatile Chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions” Brian C. McDonald et al. (2018) Science. Vol 359, pp. 760-764.