A new research study focused on how everyday household and industrial products contribute to air pollution was funded by the Climate Program Office’s Atmospheric Chemistry, Carbon Cycle and Climate (AC4) Program. A research team which included AC4-supported scientist Shantanu Jathar of Colorado State University investigated air quality issues that affect urban areas. AC4 funded the project to improve the understanding of complex chemical transformations that occur in the atmosphere and produce pollution.
On a daily basis, we use things like pesticides, cleaning agents, adhesives, and personal care products which release a slew of different chemicals into the air. The chemicals transform into secondary organic aerosols, or microscopic breathable particles that are harmful to public health and air quality. One subset of these chemicals, called the oxygenated volatile organic compound, is relatively poorly understood, and this study, published in Environmental Science & Technology sought to describe how it evolves in the air to form pollutants. Using a combination of laboratory experiments and models, the researchers determined that the number of carbon atoms that make up each chemical compound corresponds to the amount of pollutant it will produce. These findings are similar to those from the other, more extensively studied group of chemical emissions from common products. This work contributes to our understanding of air pollution in densely populated urban settings, which will lead to more effective mitigation.