We knew that freon and other chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) were very bad for the ozone layer and air quality. We’ve learned that methane from cows and agricultural gases in general were just as bad as cars. Now, we have a new worrying set of products on our conscience, and they are just as bad as petrol vehicles – we’re talking about deodorants, perfumes and soaps, and it’s no joke.
These products that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with pollution at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks. This conclusion was reached and a paper on the study was published in the journal Science by the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Brian C. McDonald was the leader of the study and he’s a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science. According to their research, 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.
These compounds not only damage the ozone, but can chemically transform in the air, and in relatively high levels (depending on the compound) can be associated with health degradation, especially the onset of asthma.
“You can see these really rapid decreases in tailpipe emissions,” McDonald said
“It just made sense to start looking at other sources and seeing whether they could be growing in relative importance.”
While people use far more fuel, by weight, than they do lotions and paints, there’s a major difference in how these chemicals end up in the air.
Even though drivers can use gallons of gasoline each week, “it’s stored in an airtight tank, it’s burned for energy, and converted mostly to carbon dioxide,” said Jessica B. Gilman, a research chemist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also involved in the study. Carbon dioxide doesn’t count as a smog-forming V.O.C. (although, globally it’s still a problem on its own).
“But these V.O.C.s that you use in everyday products — even though it may just be a teaspoon or a squirt or a spray — the majority of those kinds of compounds will ultimately end up in the atmosphere, where they can react and contribute to both harmful ozone formation and small-particle formation,” Dr. Gilman said.
40% of the chemicals added to consumer products end up in the air we breathe. And although it takes time for them to react with the air, one has to wonder what’s happening when we apply these products to our skin and breathe in the fumes, enjoying the scent?