That stuff you use to get ready in the morning? It could be as bad for your health and the planet as car pollution. A new study shows that half of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in our air come from products like shampoo, perfume, deodorant, as well as household products like paint, bleach and pesticides. Every time you wash your hair, paint your house, clean the toilet, put on deodorant or paint your nails, you are making the air quality in your home and city worse – not to mention the impact on your health.
A new study published in Science shows that VOCs from household products has emerged as the “largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions.” The study was done in Los Angeles, but researchers believe that the data can apply to other cities and suburbs as well.
It may not seem like it, but this is partially good news. The reason that household products make up such a large part of the VOCs in the air is because we’ve reduced the amount of pollution in the air from cars. The bad news is that air pollution kills up to 29,000 people per year in the UK alone. Air pollution doesn’t discriminate between sources when it comes to harming your health.
Pound for pound, cleaning and grooming products actually have a more severe impact on the environment than those coming from cars. That’s because fuel is combusted more efficiently than household products; very little pollution makes it into the air compared to, say, a puff of perfume. “Volatile chemical products used in common solvents and personal care products are literally designed to evaporate. You wear perfume or use scented products so that you or your neighbour can enjoy the aroma. You don’t do this with gasoline,” the HuffPo UK summarized.
As if that wasn’t enough to cause you to panic, a new study from Norwegian scientists shows that household cleaning products could be damaging our lungs as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Bottom line: as we push for cleaner cars, we also need to be focusing on cleaning up our household products.