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A project currently underway at the University of Chester will be analysing how both cooking and cleaning can affect the indoor quality of our homes.

Entitled IMPacts of Cooking and Cleaning on indoor Air quality: towards healthy BuiLdings for the FuturE (IMPeCCABLE), it is a collaboration between the Universities of Chester, York (as the lead institution), and Nottingham and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI.)

As we spend more time at home, especially during the current lockdown restrictions and as houses continue to become increasingly airtight through energy efficiency measures, the research team believes we may be increasing our exposure to indoor air pollution, if sources such as cooking and cleaning dominate our exposure.

The project aims to understand the sources and reactions of pollutants indoors. Scientists will investigate the emissions from different pollution sources indoors, both in terms of their strength and their composition; and examine the key chemical reactions that occur indoors following these emissions, together with the harmful products formed? They will also look to identify the consequent implications for building occupants in terms of exposure to air pollution, whether behaviour can be identified that might lead to higher exposures indoors, and will then consider how to reduce that exposure. Ultimately, the team aims to use its findings to make recommendations for future building design and use based on rigorous science.*

The University’s Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences has already set up a test kitchen unit, and an adjoining monitoring unit next door, so that researchers can start measuring the air quality of cooking and cleaning emissions and logging results. As part of the cooking aspect of the research, the team will be cooking an agreed set of standard household recipes, on a regular basis, to monitor the impact on air quality within the unit.

At Chester, the project is being led by Dr Gavin Phillips, who is Senior Lecturer in Chemistry and Environmental Science at the University. The Postdoctoral Researcher on the project is Dr Archit Mehra. Also supporting the project through her experiential learning module, is second year BSc Chemistry student, Harriet Jones.

Dr Mehra said: “Our new DOMestic Energy Systems and Technology InCubator (DOMESTIC) facility offers a test-bed for studying things we do every day, such as cooking and cleaning, which influence Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). Given we spend around 90% of our time indoors, having a dedicated facility to study activities in the built environment is a huge privilege. We hope that our experiments will provide a ‘recipe for success’ as part of our EPSRC funded ‘Impacts of Cooking and Cleaning on Indoor Air Quality: Towards Healthy Buildings for the Future’ project.”

Harriet Jones said: "I feel so lucky that I get to experience what working as part of a professional research project is like. It gives me so much insight and really helps me pinpoint and develop useful skills."

*Although measurements of cooking and cleaning emissions exist, they tend to focus on a few emission rates, rather than studying a wide range of emitted compounds and the chemistry that follows from the emissions. Measurements have been mostly made in the US, where building design and use differ considerably to the UK. The involvement of a range of stakeholders - including representatives from architecture, building management (including catering and cleaning managers), the chemical industry and building regulations - will ensure the results are relevant.

Full details of the University of Chester project can be found at: https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=EP%2FT014490%2F1#/tabOverview

 

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