Written on: February 1, 2020 by Nicholas Georges
We’re finally past the holiday season. Gone are the delicious aromas from cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Farewell to the pine scent from the Christmas tree. We’re well into the New Year and I’ve stopped mulling wine with cinnamon sticks and other spices. However, all of those activities have something in common beyond their connection to the holidays—they all change the composition of our indoor air.
The household and commercial products industry spends a significant amount of time and resources to improve air quality. For more than 30 years, the Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA) and our member companies have collaboratively worked with legislators, regulators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders to significantly improve air quality in California and across the country.
Since 1989, HCPA has actively engaged with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in every one of its rulemaking procedures to tighten California’s comprehensive and stringent consumer products’ regulations. HCPA is currently building consensus positions with member companies based on sound scientific principles and working with all stakeholders to improve air quality for Californians, while maintaining our industry’s ability to produce effective products that contribute to consumers’ health, safety and quality of life.
In addition to our work with CARB, we all know that proper use of household and commercial products, as part of a cleaning routine, improves indoor air quality. However, there are still many unknowns about how everyday human activities, such as cooking and cleaning, affect indoor air quality.
The House Observations of Microbial & Environmental Chemistry (HOMEChem) project was designed [by research group Indoor Chemistry] to measure and record how everyday activities influence the emissions, chemical reactions and removal of trace gases and particles in indoor air. Through a partnership among several academic institutions, the research team fitted the UTest House (a facility dedicated to indoor environments research at the University of Texas, Austin) with sensors to collect and record the indoor air quality from everyday activities.
For example, results were monitored every time a personal care or cleaning product was used, as well as cooking and other everyday activities. A wide range of inorganic gases—including ozone, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), halogenated species, organic acids and particulate matter—were all recorded as a result.
The experiments within the UTest House were conducted over four weeks, which means that there is substantial data for the scientists involved in this project to analyze. There have been a couple of journal articles 1,2 published about the study so far, and the final data from the HOMEChem project will be available by the summer of 2020. As more researchers review the data, there’s no doubt that additional findings will come to light.
Even with this wealth of new information, more research needs to be done to better understand our indoor environment. With this project being conducted in Texas during the summer months, it would be interesting and valuable to conduct the same experiment during the winter months in a northern State, just as it would be to repeat this project in other regions across the U.S. Further, conducting this experiment in different houses made of different materials could also yield different interactions among the particles released by different actions. This research will provide insight and help further our understanding of indoor environments, but it’s important to remember that this project was still executed in a simulated environment where variables were controlled beyond what we control in our everyday lives.
The HOMEChem project is a large and well-thought-out study that will likely improve our understanding of indoor environments and the air quality within them. Regardless of what we learn, consumers shouldn’t stop cooking, cleaning and looking after their personal cleanliness.
If you’re interested in indoor air quality, I would encourage you to get involved with HCPA’s Scientific Affairs Council. If you have any questions about the HOMEChem project or want to learn more about getting involved, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. SPRAY
1 Delphine K. Farmer, Marina E. Vance et al. Overview of HOMEChem: House Observations of Microbial & Environmental Chemistry. Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 1280–1300.
2 Laura Ampollini et al. Observations & Contributions of Real-Time Indoor Ammonia Concentrations during HOMEChem. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019, 53, 8591–8598.