"How much are you polluting your office just existing?"
That is the most annoying question posed by researchers at Purdue University in Indiana. It turns out that each of us is guilty. Especially those of us who use deodorant and, er, breathe.
To find out, the team set up an office building with thousands of sensors and a highly sensitive "nose" to identify indoor air contaminants and find out how to control them.
The "nose" is an instrument commonly used to measure outside air quality.
This helped to "smell" human breathing compounds, such as isoprene, in real time – many of which remain in the office even after people leave the room.
Air quality can have a huge impact on office worker productivity: poor air is responsible for dragging workers' attention, health and mood.
And it turns out that people inside an office, as well as their ventilation systems, have a huge impact on the way air is suitable for breathing.
"The chemistry of the indoor air is dynamic. It changes throughout the day based on outside conditions, how the ventilation system operates and occupancy patterns in the office," said Dr. Brandon Boor, assistant professor of civil engineering at Purdue. .
One of the research's key findings is about the previously unknown behaviors of a set of chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have been linked to respiratory, allergic, and immune system problems.
"Our preliminary results suggest that people are the dominant source of volatile organic compounds in a modern office environment," said Dr. Boor.
"We found that the levels of many compounds are 10 to 20 times higher indoors than outdoors.
"If an office space is not adequately ventilated, these volatile compounds can adversely affect worker health and productivity."
This super sensitive "nose" instrument identified indoor air contaminants. Pic: Purdue
During the investigation, the team found that pollutants entering outside buildings – ozone – disappear as soon as they enter.
"This is because ozone interacts with other internal compounds and the vast surfaces of a furnished office," according to Purdue University.
According to the researchers, ozone and the compounds released by peeling an orange – called monoterpenes – may even mix to form super-small new particles that may be toxic because they are small enough to penetrate the deepest lungs of an orange. person.
Ventilation systems can end up pushing deodorants, makeup and hair chemicals outwards.
The researchers will present their initial findings at the 2019 American Aerosol Research Association in Portland, Oregon.