12 May 2011

Shed skin may cut air pollution

The flakes of human skin in household dust may help reduce indoor air pollution, according to new research.


The flakes of human skin in household dust may help reduce indoor air pollution, according to new research.

Humans shed their entire outer layer of skin every two to four weeks, the researchers pointed out in the study, published in the May issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Those flakes, which contain skin oils such as cholesterol and squalene, are a major contributor to dust buildup in homes and offices.

The Danish researchers reported that squalene oil, the most common fat and antioxidant found on human skin, plays a small role in reducing levels of indoor ozone, a pollutant that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Human skin and pollution

"It is only within the last five years that we've grown to appreciate the central role that squalene (from human skin oil) plays in oxidation chemistry within indoor environments," the study authors said in a news release from the American Chemical Society.

The researchers examined how cholesterol and squalene from dust in 500 bedrooms of children aged three to five years and their daycare centres affected indoor air pollution. They found that squalene in settled dust reduced ozone levels roughly 2% to 15%.

Previous studies also revealed that squalene from human skin helped lower levels of ozone from the air in airplane cabins. "More than half of the ozone removal measured in a simulated aircraft cabin was found to be a consequence of ozone reacting with exposed, skin, hair, and clothing of passengers," Charles Weschler and colleagues wrote.

(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)


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Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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