Large quantities of fine, organic particle pollutants are not being addressed by current air quality regulations, scientists suggest.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that although a large amount of effort has focused on combating pollutants directly emitted by vehicles and industrial processes, the lesser-studied volatile organic compounds (VOC) are being overlooked.
VOCs – vapors from gasoline, paints, varnishes, cleaning supplies and automotive products – are oxidized and condense into existing air particles. These fine particles have a diameter that is equal to less than one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.
Lead author Ken Docherty of the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences explained that the study indicates these particles "contribute more significantly to poor air quality, even in very polluted urban regions."
The report, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, also suggests that more research is needed to explore how exposure to these particles may affect people’s health.
Previous research has demonstrated that pollution from vehicles, factories and power plants can cause asthma attacks. According to the National Resources Defense Council, around 30 percent of childhood asthma is a result of environmental factors.