Shed Skin in Dust May Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

Antioxidant in flakes of human skin helps lower ozone levels, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- The flakes of human skin in household dust may help reduce indoor air pollution, according to new research.

Humans shed their entire outer layer of skin every two to four weeks, the researchers pointed out in the study, published in the May issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Those flakes, which contain skin oils such as cholesterol and squalene, are a major contributor to dust buildup in homes and offices.

The Danish researchers reported that squalene oil, the most common fat and antioxidant found on human skin, plays a small role in reducing levels of indoor ozone, a pollutant that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and exacerbate asthma symptoms.

"It is only within the last five years that we've grown to appreciate the central role that squalene (from human skin oil) plays in oxidation chemistry within indoor environments," the study authors said in a news release from the American Chemical Society.

The researchers examined how cholesterol and squalene from dust in 500 bedrooms of children aged 3 to 5 years and their daycare centers affected indoor air pollution. They found that squalene in settled dust reduced ozone levels roughly 2 to 15 percent.

Previous studies also revealed that squalene from human skin helped lower levels of ozone from the air in airplane cabins. "More than half of the ozone removal measured in a simulated aircraft cabin was found to be a consequence of ozone reacting with exposed, skin, hair, and clothing of passengers," Charles Weschler and colleagues wrote in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides tips for controlling indoor air pollution.

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