Black Lives Matter

Also: Is the Air Quality in Our Homes Getting Worse?

You don’t need me to tell you that we’re living through a historic and remarkable moment, and the despair I’ve been feeling the last few weeks (months?) has given way to the tiniest ray of actual hope for the future. A large part of that has been the reminder that activism can make a difference, so I wanted to start by sharing a few links about how to keep the momentum going:

Also, here are some stories I recommend that explore the intersection of race, justice, and design:

And now, to switch topics inartfully:

Stay at Home Orders & Indoor Air Quality

There have been a lot of headlines about how the stay-at-home orders this spring have led to dramatic improvements in outdoor air quality. But the opposite seems to be happening indoors, and as we hunkered down at home, the air quality in our buildings likely got worse. As I write in Scientific American:

In March Airthings, an Oslo-based manufacturer of smart air-quality monitors, noticed conditions beginning to deteriorate in many customers’ homes that it tracks. Between early March and early May, levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) increased by 15 to 30 percent in more than 1,000 homes across several European countries, the company says.

As it happens, the pandemic has spurred us to spend more time engaged in two particular activities that are known to be major sources of indoor air pollution: cooking and cleaning. I also interviewed a chemist who has done some fascinating research documenting how much our own bodies contribute to indoor air pollution.

Our mere presence can change the chemistry of indoor air, too. In a 2016 experiment, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 57 percent of the VOCs detected in a university classroom had been emitted by its occupants. The most abundant of these compounds were chemicals called cyclic volatile methylsiloxanes, which are commonly found in personal care products, especially antiperspirants. The scientists detected chemicals contained in our breath as well, including acetone and isoprene, plus compounds that are produced when ozone reacts with the oil on our skin. “We also saw even very small amounts of emissions from the microbes that live on your skin,” says atmospheric chemist Allen Goldstein, who was senior author of the study.

Check out the full story for more details, as well as some suggestions for what you can do to help keep the air in your home healthy and clean.

Indoor Ephemera


Not coronavirus-related:

Bonus Interspecies Animal Content

Dog-and-duck edition:


The Great Indoors will be out in less than two weeks! But you can pre-order it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, IndieBound, or your local independent bookstore.

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