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VOCs: smog's indoor legacy.

Several federal studies have indicated that most exposures to volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), such as benzene and formaldehyde, occur indoors. Now scientists report finding that smog ozone fosters the emission of VOCs from nylon carpets - and presumably from a host of other home materials as well.

The finding provides yet another argument for managing smog, a seemingly intractable problem in many urban areas. However, "what really excites me," says chemist Charles J. Weschler, who led the new study, "is this evidence for indoor chemistry." Until now, he observes, "we've tended to view the indoor environment as relatively static, [pretending] chemistry only occurs outdoors."

Previously, Weschler, of Bell Communications Research in Red Bank, N.J., showed that smog ozone can infiltrate buildings, sometimes attaining near outdoor levels (SN: 9/23/89, p. 198). In the December ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, he and his colleagues report finding that indoor ozone interacts with nylon carpets and their backings.

In each of four experiments, the researchers carpeted a stainless steel reaction chamber whose ventilation system changed the air once each hour. After measuring VOCs for a week, they introduced ozone. When it stabilized at a concentration of 28 to 44 parts per billion in the air, they sampled again.

The presence of ozone boosted the carpets' emission of two suspected carcinogens-formaldehyde, by as much as three-fold, and acetaldehyde, by as much as 20 times. Ozone also generated several other irritating aldehydes not seen earlier, apparently by reacting with the carpets' nylon pile. However, the ozone caused levels of several irritating and potentially toxic VOCs to drop precipitously; these chemicals -- including one largely responsible for "new carpet" odor - were apparently given off by the carpets' adhesive and backing.
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Title Annotation:volatile organic chemicals emit from nylon carpets and other inside materials
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 19, 1992
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