Study reveals fate of indoor chemical emissions, including unexpected buildup of lactic acid from sweat | 2/17/2019 | Staff
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Lactic acid—the main chemical in human sweat—leaves our skin, travels through the air, and sticks to our walls. And according to a team of chemists who outfitted the University of Colorado Art Museum with state-of-the-art air-sampling instruments: it's doing so at surprisingly high rates. The finding highlights the need to better understand the fate of the indoor chemicals, especially those that may impact human health.

"We discovered that the surface uptake of lactic acid—how 'sticky' it is indoors—is much greater than previous studies suggested," said Demetrios Pagonis, a CIRES postdoctoral researcher and lead author on the study published in the latest issue of Environmental Science & Technology. "We found that 97 percent of the lactic acid emitted in the museum ended up on a surface, while some previous models would have predicted little or no surface uptake."

Pagonis - Team - Mass - Spectrometry - Instruments

Pagonis and his team used state-of-the-art mass spectrometry instruments, funded by the Sloan Foundation, for the new indoor air assessment. "It allowed us to bring the same level of detailed instrumentation and resources that have been used in atmospheric research to the indoor air arena," said Pagonis. "We can see where chemicals come from, how they behave and where they end up."

For six weeks, as visitors meandered the main gallery of the CU Art Museum, the researchers studied the room from behind a wall, spying not on the people, but on the chemicals in the air. Their targets: the products used to clean and paint the room, emissions from visitors' deodorants and skin, even the alcohol on people's breath.

Chemicals - Indoors - Team - Hole - Wall

To track down exactly what happens to these chemicals indoors, the team drilled an inconspicuous, one-inch hole into the wall of the main gallery, threading air sampling tubes into a room filled with mass spectrometry equipment. Those tubes collected data on concentrations of airborne chemicals and particulate...
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