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Showers and dishwashers can create indoor air pollution.

A large number of studies in the past six years have compared indoor/outdoor concentrations of volatile and hazardous air pollutants. "In every single study, with just about any pollutant, you find higher concentrations indoors than outdoors--even in the most polluted cities in the United States," says Dr. Richard Corsi, UT-Austin.

"There are a lot of measures the public can take to reduce exposure to such compounds. However, the first step is simply to make sure the public understands the nature of the problem, and the simple steps they can take to solve it," says Corsi.


Trends of the latter half of this century have reduced the quality of INDOOR air quality. Attached garages can bring automobile exhaust and stored chemical vapors inside the house. The energy crisis led to more airtight homes and buildings, allowing pollutants to build indoors.


Even chlorinated tap water can transfer hazardous compounds to indoor air, they report in Environmental Science and Technology.

Nearly all public water supplies contain at least small amounts of potentially toxic chemicals associated with the chlorination of drinking water, an otherwise beneficial process used to protect the public from pathogenic organisms. Breathing these chemicals may rival or exceed exposure due to drinking the water.


Dishwashers can transfer chemicals from water to indoor air, with the bulk of chemicals released when the door is opened after a dishwashing cycle. Corsi also notes that washing machines and dishwashers using chlorinated bleaches or detergents may increase human exposure to chlorinated chemicals through release of these chemicals.



Indoor air pollution can be reduced through the use of environmentally-friendly (low emitting) building materials and consumer products


Take steps to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in the home. So if your shower or dishwasher is causing your indoor air a can take steps to clean up your air. TIP... it is important to maintain well-ventilated surroundings during water use.
  • leave the bathroom fan on or window open when showering,
  • use the hood fan above the stove when boiling water, etc.
  • Commercially available activated carbon canisters will remove volatile organic compounds from water prior to their discharge through a faucet or shower head.

Who would have thought that ventilation is important during routine water use!

Environmental engineers at The University of Texas at Austin have documented that showers and dishwashers contribute to indoor air pollution. When tap water contains even trace amounts of harmful chemicals such as radon, constituents of gasoline, or by-products of drinking water chlorination (disinfection), these chemicals can be transferred from water to indoor air. This process, called volatilization or chemical stripping, adds to a growing list of indoor air pollutants, the air researchers report in the July 1 issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

The researchers, led by Dr. Richard Corsi, associate professor of civil engineering, completed a series of experiments using household appliances: dishwashers, clothes washers, showers, and bathtubs. During each experiment, water used by the appliance contained chemical tracers with properties similar to potentially toxic chemicals found in many public water supplies. Corsi's group determined that significant percentages of all tested pollutants transferred from water to indoor air.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently using the research to assess public exposures to chemicals, and subsequent health risks, once thought to enter the human body primarily through ingestion.

July 5, 1999
Contact: Dr. Richard Corsi, UT-Austin (512) 471-3611 or 475-8617

For more articles about NATURE EXPLORATION

Leaves of 3 Leave them be
Think Global - Act Local!
Certify Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder
Favorite Quotes about Nature
Bio-Diesel solving energy shortages