Fighting smog and pollution isn't just about reducing emissions from cars and trucks.
They also want manufacturers of everything from hairspray to furniture polish to rethink the ingredients in their products after research showed they contain harmful levels of oil-derived chemicals to make them fragrant and runny.
The scientists concluded that in the USA, the amount of VOCs emitted by consumer and industrial products is actually two or three times greater than estimated by current air pollution inventories, which also overestimate vehicular sources. However, the household products contribute about as much to air pollution as vehicles do, said lead author Brian McDonald, a research scientist with the Colorado-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 75 percent of VOC emissions (by weight) come from vehicular sources, and about 25 percent from chemical products.
"Gasoline is stored in closed, hopefully airtight, containers and the VOCs in gasoline are burned for energy", Gilman said.
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While the compounds in gasoline are burned for fuel, researchers say some consumer products, like perfume, are "literally created to evaporate". However, the new study - which used current chemical use statistics and previously unavailable atmospheric data - found that the split was actually closer to 50-50.
"We hope this study spurs collaboration between atmospheric scientists, chemical engineers and public health researchers, to deliver the best science to decision-makers", said McDonald. "You don't do this with gasoline", the HuffPo UK summarized.
Last year, in October, a study by global medical journal "The Lancet", said that in 2015, pollution was the reason behind nine million deaths worldwide-or about one in six. "Think of using hand sanitizer in cold and flu season, scented products, or the time spent waiting for paint, ink and glue to dry". The report ranked "ambient particulate matter pollution" as the largest air pollution risk.
The findings come as the world slowly moves towards better vehicles with auto manufacturers making pollution-limiting changes to engines, governments pushing cleaner fuels and introducing strict pollution control systems.
"They also determined that people are exposed to very high concentrations of volatile compounds indoors, which are more concentrated inside than out". "We had to collect an overwhelming amount of evidence to say that these sources are important", says McDonald. "The net result is it rivals that from vehicles", says de Gouw.
"It's worked so well that to make further progress on air quality, regulatory efforts would need to become more diverse", he said.