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Dangerous air pollution from heating: Do not cook in closed rooms
Most people understand that air pollution from road traffic poses a health hazard. But even in closed rooms there is a danger - because cooking and cleaning often produce vapors that are hazardous to health.
Everyday household activities worsen air quality
Air pollution poses a global health risk. Bad air not only weakens the lungs, but also damages our heart health. However, it is not only the exhaust gases from vehicles and factories that degrade air quality, but also everyday household chores. Researchers from the USA have now found that out.
Effects on global air pollution
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that cooking, cleaning, and other household chores do produce substantial amounts of volatile and particulate chemicals in the home.
According to a statement from the university, this leads to indoor air quality at the level of a polluted city.
And these chemicals from the house don't stay there either: volatile organic compounds (VOC) from products such as shampoo, perfume and cleaning agents escape to the outside and contribute to the formation of ozone and fine dust.
The effects on global air pollution are even more intense than those from cars and trucks.
Ventilate apartments well when cooking and cleaning
"Houses have never been considered a major source of outdoor air pollution, and now is the time to investigate," said Marina Vance of the University of Colorado Boulder.
"We wanted to know: How do basic activities like cooking and cleaning change the chemistry of a house?"
The scientists led by Dr. Delphine Farmer and Dr. Marina Vance performed a variety of daily household activities in a 1,200-meter house built on the University of Texas campus in Austin over the course of a month.
As part of the so-called HOMEChem experiment, they cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of summer, among other things.
According to the communication, the final results are still pending, but according to Vance, it is already clear that the apartments must be well ventilated when cooking and cleaning.
Because even basic tasks such as boiling water over a stove flame can contribute to a high proportion of gaseous air pollutants and suspended matter - with negative effects on health.
To the surprise of the team, the indoor concentrations were so high that their sensitive instruments had to be recalibrated almost immediately.
"Even the simple process of toasting has increased particle concentrations far higher than expected," said Vance. "We had to adapt a lot of instruments."
Health hazard in the household
Various magazines also quote Dr. Delphine Farmer of the University of Colorado, who has pointed out that even tiny harmful substances such as drops of fat from the frying pan or carbon monoxide caused by a gas stove contribute to ambient air pollution.
Such vapors can attack the respiratory tract, among other things, which is why experts recommend that you only cook with the window open.
An extractor hood could also help remove the fumes from the home.
In this country too, the danger of poisoning from carbon monoxide in one's own four walls is repeatedly pointed out, but not so much through cooking, but rather through defective gas heaters and heating systems.
Norwegian researchers have also reported household health hazards in the past. They found that cleaning, due to the chemicals used, could cause lung damage comparable to that of cigarettes.
Chemical pollutants from households
Other experts reported in Science last year that the importance of household chemical pollutants for air pollution has increased, while automotive regulations have pushed emissions from transportation down in recent decades.
“Many traditional sources, such as vehicles that run on fossil fuels, are much cleaner than they used to be,” said study author Joost de Gouw.
There are government controls on ozone and particulate matter pollution, but none that affect household chemical compounds. But it was still too early to make recommendations to politicians.
But: “For the future, we need to focus our research efforts on these sources and give them the same attention that we have devoted to fossil fuels,” says de Gouw. (ad)