While some politicians may not believe in the existence of global warming, many Americans are highly concerned with the state of the planet. But while car exhaust has historically been blamed for increasing pollution levels, it turns out that the cause of unhealthy air might be found even closer to home.
According to the recent State of the Air report conducted by the American Lung Association, more than four in 10 Americans — or 133.9 million people — are living in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Those who are eager to do their part to protect the environment might install solar panels, start composting, or embrace a vegan lifestyle. Although the 12.75% of Americans who regularly hunt or fish might arguably be doing better things for the eco-system than keeping animals in abhorrent conditions only to mass-produce meat products, many people still feel a change in diet can make a big difference.
But none of that may matter if Americans don’t stop using certain household products.
That’s right: a recent study found that, while car emissions are certainly harmful to the environment, the chemicals in many products we use on a daily basis are just as bad. The paint we use on those cars — which can cost up to $3,000 to repair, if a scratch is deep enough — and in our homes, along with soaps, perfumes, cleaners, pesticides, lotions, and other products contain compounds refined from petroleum. And while we use more fuel than products that contain these compounds, these products have been recognized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as to produce pollution effects that were about equal to what our vehicles produce.
Actually, NOAA reports that car emissions are actually less of a threat now than in previous years. Researchers found that the level of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emitted by these household products is actually “two or three times greater than estimated by current air pollution inventories, which also overestimate vehicular resources.” These findings are in opposition with the stance of the Environmental Protection Agency, which estimates that 75% of fossil VOC emissions can be attributed to fuel-related sources and only 25% can be tied to industrial and/or consumer products. But the NOAA maintains that the contributions of each are closer to 50%.
In NOAA’s study — which examined emissions in Boulder, Colorado and Toronto, Canada — found that the products people use in their daily regimens emit from their bodies throughout the day and result in excess pollution.
As lead study author Matthew Coggon explained: “These products don’t stick to our bodies permanently. Over the course of the day, compounds in deodorants, lotions, hair gels, and perfumes evaporate from our skin and eventually make their way outdoors. Now there’s new evidence to suggest that these products are major sources of air pollution in urban areas.”
Efforts have been made to reduce motor vehicle carbon emissions since the 1970s, but those same tactics have not been used to increase more public awareness pertaining to the household products they use. From sprays to paints, it looks as if Americans may need to take a closer look at the hygiene, cleaning, and maintenance goods they use on a regular basis and assess whether they contain potentially harmful compounds.