Magazine article Science News

How Dishwashers Pollute the Indoor Air

Magazine article Science News

How Dishwashers Pollute the Indoor Air

Article excerpt

Using an automatic dishwasher to clean up plates, glasses, and cutlery may dirty the kitchen's air, a new study finds.

Tap water contains trace quantities of potentially toxic organic chemicals, often a result of water-system chlorination. When such water is heated and sprayed, some of the waterborne pollutants enter the air.

Cynthia Howard-Reed of the Environmental Protection Agency in Reston, Va., and her colleagues now report that the heating and spraying actions of modern automatic dishwashers make these ubiquitous kitchen aids the home's most efficient means of releasing waterborne chemicals into indoor air.

The researchers conducted 29 experiments, running a residential dishwasher through its paces under a range of conditions--with varying cycles, temperatures, and numbers of dishes. Each time, they spiked the incoming water with four volatile organics. The researchers chose these chemicals to represent typical pollutants having different water solubilities. The more soluble a compound, the less likely it is to escape into the air.

Within a minute or two, the first cycle in the dishwasher stripped the water of 96 to 100 percent of toluene, ethylbenzene, and cyclohexane, the researchers report in the July 1 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY. Because dishwashers continuously vent some 5 to 7 liters of air per minute into the kitchen, the volatilized pollutants almost immediately begin circulating within the house. …

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