Chemist co-leads first large-scale study on indoor smog

Read the full articles on The New Yorker and NPR’s 1A.

A four-week experiment surprised scientists when the inside of a home briefly exceeded the conditions of the world’s most polluted major city, New Delhi, after a Thanksgiving dinner was prepared.

Image By The Farmer Group CSU
Image By The Farmer Group CSU

Co-led by Delphine Farmer, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Colorado State University, it was the world’s first large-scale collaborative study on indoor air chemistry. Marina Vance, an environmental engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder, co-led the project with Farmer.

The project is titled HOMEchem for House Observations of Microbial and Environmental Chemistry. It brought together a group of 60 scientists at a test house at the University of Texas in Austin to cook, clean and carefully measure the inside air. With Americans spending around 90 percent of their lives indoors, according to an EPA-funded study, it’s important to know what is emitted during everyday home activities.

Farmer and Vance were awarded with a Sloan Foundation grant of $1.1 million to examine various aspects of indoor air, surfaces and microbes in a typical U.S. home over the course of two years. They are now seeing early results, but it could take a couple years to fully understand the data.