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February 13, 2018 Tuesday 03:12:42 PM IST

Are you living in a chemical factory?

Policy Indications

13th February, 2018: According to a review article published in the journal Science, by Sasho Gligorovski, a physicist and atmospheric chemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, our living spaces including the office spaces are comparable with chemical factories. The chemical reactions taking place therein can produce a dangerous array of toxic air pollutants!

To his surprise, the researcher found that the highly reactive hydroxyl (OH) radicals present in the indoor environments at par with their levels in outdoor air. Hydroxyl radicals are abundant in the urban smog, which is produced by photochemical reactions involving ultraviolet radiation from the sun and nitrogen- containing pollutants from such sources as car exhaust. Measuring similar levels of hydroxyls indicate that enough ultraviolet enters the living spaces penetrating the windows to produce similar reactions indoors!

“The high concentration of OH radicals indoors makes the indoor environment [into] a reaction chamber,” Gligorovski says.

Further, people keep on adding hazardous materials into the interior environment, ranging from household cleaners to hairsprays, cooking fumes, scented candles, cigarette smoke, etc. Adding to it, the oils on our own skins reacts with ozone in indoor air, producing a host of potentially dangerous by-products. In certain geological settings, buildings can collect enough radioactive radon gas seeping up from the ground to significantly increase the risk of lung cancer. Also, dampness and mould are clearly associated with respiratory health effects, such as asthma.


“Indoor allergens from dust mites, cockroaches, rodents, and pets [also] contribute to allergy and asthma symptoms,” says William Fisk, a mechanical engineer who heads up the Indoor Environment Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California.

It is an alarm call for people who develop interior living spaces, including schools.


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