VOCs and household consumer products

As efforts to reduce air pollution from combustion continue to drive down SOx and NOx from smoke stacks and tailpipes, experts are turning their attention to other sources that are contributing a larger proportion of the mix than originally thought, specifically VOCs emitted from household products.

We know products such as paint, detergents, cleaning products, glues, and cosmetics all contribute to indoor air pollution. PPG and Sherwin Williams, among others, have developed low- and zero-VOC paints, but what else out there would have the most impact for reducing indoor air pollution?

Are there any particularly notorious emitters from the inventory of everyday household items? If you were to rank the top 3-5 emitters from average household garages/bathrooms/kitchens, what would top the lists?

Another great topic @jamesburbridge

There are various sources of volatile organic compounds in the household which could be detrimental to our health.

Personally, I’m very wary of aerosol sprays that contain potentially toxic compounds (e.g. fly sprays).

EPA: Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality

WHO: Household air pollution: Pollutants

Hi @sagnikdey, @bartc, @jwangjun, @eakulin,
Given your experience in the field we would love to have your inputs on James discussion.

At least with pesticide sprays, you understand the nature of the potential threat and you are using it to reduce other risks such as insects that carry diseases (mosquitoes, ticks, etc.). There is a basic problem with consumer products where we have been sold the premise that things are not clean unless they smell like pine forests or lemon groves. If things are actually clean, they do not smell. We smell VOCs because they have a reactive bond in them. Thus, with a bit of infiltrated ozone you can have a smog reaction right above your freshly lemon-fresh Pledge waxed coffee table. See: Secondary Organic Aerosol from Ozonolysis of Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds: Chamber Studies of Particle and Reactive Oxygen Species Formation, X Chen, P.K. Hopke, W.P.L. Carter, Environ. Sci. Technol. 45: 276–282 (2011).

@akb Fly sprays (I’m assuming you mean like a can of Raid? or Black Flag?) seem like a pretty obvious one. The way I was introduced to VOCs, piggybacking off of @hopkepk comment, was anything that ‘smells’ is emitted VOC.

That said, do you think there is value in trying to focus a prize on specific bad actors, or those with the most emissions, or keeping it as broad as possible and stimulating the development of all kinds of emissions-free products? From my experience, the latter would be more difficult to evaluate/assess against in a competition, but would also lead to the most potential progress in reducing indoor air pollution?

@jamesburbridge Yes any insecticide, or fungicide. Perhaps anything that kills any lifeform - we have so much DNA in common.

Good question above. I agree with your thoughts.

Hello @alanDRI , @mccubbin , @bontempi , @Shaina , @IAM
We would love to have have your inputs on VOC’s from household consumer products and how it effects human health.

One good article is Ozone’s impact on public health: contributions from indoor exposures to ozone and products of ozone-initiated chemistry
CJ Weschler, Environmental health perspectives 114 (10), 1489-1496
It is open access so easily retrievable.

@jamesburbridge ,
Household VOCs (particularly after the first year) are often dominated by cooking emissions. In addition the generated compounds (e.g. acrolein, caused when hot oil breaks down) are often reactive, and short lived but cause significant risk. Of common household products, don’t forget Gasoline which contains high concentrations of benzene (1% domestically, higher internationally)

For ozone formation, the HRVOC’s (highly reactive VOC) are the largest driver, particularly ethylene, propelyne, 1,3-butadiene, butenes, isoprenet (as you can see, mostly the “ene’s” The light HRVOCs are typically combustion byproducts. The only HRVOCs that are common in household products are the xylenes which have become more prevalent as solvents as more toxic solvents have been phased out. These contribute to area ozone formation. In order to form ozone a combination of NOx, VOCs and sunlight are required.

@jamesburbridge ,
There are emission databases for ca. 9000 volatile organic compounds (VOC) originating from 600 indoor sources (Abadie and Blondeau, 2011) and ca. 2000 microbial VOC emissions from 1000 species (Lemfack et al. 2018). I recommend to look those as well. Difficult to say which are the most critical once for household products. Hopefully this was helpful!

Abadie, M.O., Blondeau, P., 2011. PANDORA database: A compilation of indoor air pollutant emissions. HVAC&R Res. 17, 602-613.
Lemfack, M.C., Gohlke, B.-O., Toguem, S.M.T., Preissner, S., Piechulla, B., Preissner, R., 2018. mVOC 2.0: a database of microbial volatiles. Nucleic Acids Res. 46, D1261–D1265.

Many household products have gone to pump sprays in place of aerosols. However, once again, I doubt if spray cans are the real problem in Africa or India. Many of these villages still burn wood or animal dung for cooking and/or heating. About 10 years ago, DOE estimated that an African women spends the better part of her day collecting fire wood. Coleman stoves could work in these areas, but they would be considered expensive and still needed fuel. I don’t know that this problem has been resolved as yet.