Consumer products such as shampoo, cleaning products and paint now contribute as much to urban air pollution as tailpipe emissions from vehicles, according to a new study.
People use a lot more fuel than they do petroleum-based compounds in chemical products — about 15 times more by weight, according to the new assessment.
Even so, lotions, paints and other products contribute about as much to air pollution as does the transportation sector. In the case of one type of pollution — tiny particles that can damage people’s lungs — particle-forming emissions from chemical products are about twice as high as those from the transportation sector, researchers led by United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found.
“As transportation gets cleaner, those other sources become more and more important,” said team leader Brian McDonald, a scientist in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, working in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division.
The scientists focused on volatile organic compounds or VOCs that can waft into the atmosphere and react to produce either ozone or particulate matter — both of which are regulated in the United States and many other countries because of health impacts, including lung damage.