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Ozone-Scrubbing Skin

June 14, 2011

Dead skin flakes in dust help remove ozone from indoor air.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

An upside to dust…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Apparently, household dust has a positive side. This according to chemist Charles Weschler of the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey. Dust is partly made up of dead skin cells, and skin oils contain squalene – a chemical that scrubs ozone out of the air. Previously, Weschler’s team found that airline passengers’ skin oil helps reduce ozone levels in the cabin. This time, they studied dust from children’s bedrooms.

CHARLES WESCHLER (UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School):

And there’s enough squalene in the dust in these bedrooms to be responsible for 2 to 15 percent of the ozone that’s typically removed from the indoor environment.

HIRSHON:

Unfortunately, Weschler says you still need to vacuum, since the negative effects of dust outweigh this small benefit. But the findings will help scientists understand the complex chemistry of indoor air. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.