(p. A11) The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks.
That’s the surprising finding of a study published Thursday [Feb. 15, 2018] in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.
The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.
. . .
Concerned consumers may be tempted to turn to “natural” products, though the researchers say that isn’t a cure-all. For example, one class of compounds called terpenes gives many cleaning products a pine or citrus smell. These terpenes can be produced synthetically, or naturally from oranges.
“But whether it’s synthetic or natural, once it gets into the atmosphere it’s incredibly reactive,” Dr. Gilman said. Similar natural compounds give the Blue Ridge Mountains in Appalachia their name, from the blue haze formed by terpenes emitted from the trees there, Dr. Gilman added.
Galina Churkina, a research fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who was not involved in the study, noted that the study did not consider emissions related to biological sources like trees and animals. But the authors said their study was not the end of this line of research.
. . .
For consumers looking for a greener solution, Dr. McDonald offered some advice. “Use as little of the product as you can to get the job done,” he said.
For the full story, see:
Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi. “Want to Save the Planet? Try Using Less Deodorant.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 17, 2018): A11.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 16, 2018, and has the title “Want Cleaner Air? Try Using Less Deodorant.”)
The Science study summarized above, is:
McDonald, Brian C., Joost A. de Gouw, Jessica B. Gilman, Shantanu H. Jathar, Ali Akherati, Christopher D. Cappa, Jose L. Jimenez, Julia Lee-Taylor, Patrick L. Hayes, Stuart A. McKeen, Yu Yan Cui, Si-Wan Kim, Drew R. Gentner, Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz, Allen H. Goldstein, Robert A. Harley, Gregory J. Frost, James M. Roberts, Thomas B. Ryerson, and Michael Trainer. “Volatile Chemical Products Emerging as Largest Petrochemical Source of Urban Organic Emissions.” Science 359, no. 6377 (Feb. 16, 2018): 760-64.