- Alicia Hernandez -por_puesto
- BBC News World
It was already known that people emit chemicals – when breathing or sweating, for example. But we can transform other substances and, along the way, “purify” our environment, not yet.
This is exactly what a team of scientists from the McBlank Institute of Chemistry (Germany), together with researchers from the United States and Denmark, discovered: we have an “oxidation field” that changes the chemistry around us.
Whether it’s outside or inside our homes, on transportation or at work, we are exposed to many chemicals and pollutants. From paints and gas emissions or even what we produce with activities such as cooking or cleaning.
These chemicals usually disappear naturally outside the home. as such? Infallible formula: UV rays from the sun, water vapor and ozone.
When these three components come into contact, hydroxyl radicals (OH) are produced, which are highly reactive molecules responsible for much of the “chemical cleanup” of the environment. That is why these radicals are often called atmospheric “cleaners”.
But what is more complicated inside is the presence of a high concentration of hydroxide radicals. In this case, it is the ozone that comes from the outside that causes the oxidation of the chemical components of the air.
Or so they believed until now.
An unprecedented study
“As we seek to understand how the atmosphere is cleaned, there is an amazing mechanism that is already well understood,” said Professor Jonathan Williams, an expert in atmospheric chemistry at the Max Planck Institute who led this new study.
So far, research in enclosed spaces has analyzed the components emitted by furniture, panels or curtains. Until they realize that the one thing in common in all habitable places is man.
“So we thought we would see how the presence of humans affects the atmosphere inside (the residence).”
All this knowledge, measurements, and instruments traditionally used in these outdoor atmospheric studies have been applied in a closed environment.
“We conducted our experiment in an environment that was idealized and controlled, because we wanted to determine what only came from humans.) and the author of this study published in the journal Sciences.
To do this, they used a room made entirely of stainless steel – a “climate control room” in which there were only two women and two men who took part in the experiment.
“It seemed to be a very discreet environment, because there was no furniture, no carpeting, nothing. We even made sure that the participants’ clothes were washed with unscented detergents. To ensure nothing got into the room. We gave them special toothbrush..controlled,” Williams said. It is very carefully.”
The scientists conducted tests at different temperatures and humidity, changed participants’ clothing to more or less exposed skin, and measured levels of ozone entering the metal chamber.
The more the skin is exposed to oxidation
After exposing the participants to different amounts of ozone, they saw that hydroxyl radicals (OH) were generated. “We were surprised because he generated so many [radical]It was really high concentration.”
They found that ozone interacts with human skin.
“There is an oil that our skin naturally produces and that’s what maintains its elasticity,” William said. “Ozone interacts with one of its main components.”
At this point, a chain reaction occurs. Ozone reacts with skin oil, producing other molecules in gaseous form that are emitted into the air and in turn interact with ozone. This is when OH radicals are produced.
The more exposure the skin has, the more hydroxide radicals (“detergents” in the atmosphere) are produced.
“Aura” around us
To better understand and see how this field of OH radicals looks around us, and over time, they created a kinetic chemical model at UCLA with a fluid dynamics model made by Penn State University (USA).
In both models, they saw how the oxidation field produced by the subjects varied with different ventilation and ozone conditions.
“From the results, it was clear that OH roots were present in abundance and form strong spatial gradients,” the study says.
In the graphic model, the oxidation field looks like a kind of flame of various shades leaving our bodies outside.
Seeing the images, some may remember what some spiritual beliefs know as the “aura,” which is a field of energy of different colors that surrounds us.
A somewhat esoteric view of the matter, which Williams does not share.
“It’s a good visualization of what the field really looks like,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with these unscientific things.”
“The gradients (the different values, and therefore, the different colors) that we see match the empirical evidence of the chemistry we’re measuring. That’s why we had the confidence to show that this appeared around human,” Williams said.
Implications for the future
While Williams and Zanoni tell us this is the first step, they highlight the future significance this discovery could hold in many areas of our lives.
“In real environments we have many sources, the chemistry is more complete, but we already have a baseline that can help, for example, mitigate the buildup and concentration of toxic substances indoors and improve air quality,” said Nora Zanoni.
The scientist added that although the study focuses on chemistry, “the other area is to know its effects on people’s health, and although it still needs more studies, this is really a path.”
“When it comes to health effects, it’s important for us to know, especially after the pandemic, where we’ve all had to be stuck for so long,” Zannoni says.
To study the materials, paintings, furniture, and toxins they contain, this novelty can also mean change.
“Until now, the sofa toxic tester has only evaluated the sofa. Now it will be possible to evaluate the sofa with someone sitting on it, because the emissions from the sofa will reach you and they will oxidize in their own oxidation – it will multiply in some way,” Williams commented.
Zannoni points out that although it’s not the field they study, they consider the oxidation field we have around us can affect relationships between people.
“It’s often said that part of our communication is a chemical, and there is a chemical connection in the exchange between people. So, if each one has this oxidation domain, depending on how it develops, it may affect the other’s domain,” he noted outside Zannoni.
The expert concluded that “it can affect the sensory functions of each one in a certain way.”
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