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Christmas Tree Living Study Says It May Be Harmful to Health, Volatile Organic Compounds Explain Why

Do you have a live Christmas tree at home? If yes, then you need to reconsider your decision because live Christmas trees can harm your health. A new study published in the journal internal environment have said that the fresh scent coming from a live Christmas tree is caused by chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, which can be harmful to someone’s health if they get into their body.

The study, led by experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), says a group of volatile organic compounds called monoterpenes, which are also present in air fresheners, candles and other personal care products, are responsible for the fresh smell. Is responsible for. Attached to the Christmas tree. Conifers can affect outdoor air quality by releasing monoterpenes, but not much is known about the amount of monoterpenes released when a tree is cut and used indoors.

How did researchers find out whether live Christmas trees are harmful to health?

As part of the study, NIST’s Dustin Poppendieck, along with his colleagues, tried to find answers to questions such as what chemicals are emitted from living Christmas trees in homes, in what quantities, and whether They react with other compounds in indoor air. Make new compounds. So, researchers took a common type of Christmas tree called Douglas fir, sealed it inside a chamber, measured the amount and type of volatile organic compounds emitted over 17 days, and examined whether they tended to form new compounds. React with other compounds.

Monoterpenes can react with ozone, which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays emitted by the Sun. Ozone can be produced at ground level by chemical reactions with light. When inhaled, ozone can cause symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation. Ozone also reacts with other chemicals in the air to form new compounds. So, experts wanted to know what happens when ozone reacts with volatile organic compounds released by Christmas trees.

They used a technique called proton-transfer reaction mass spectrometry to measure volatile organic compounds emitted over 17 days. This technology can detect organic compounds present in the air. As part of the experiment, experts simulated a home environment, decorated the tree in holiday lighting, and shone bright lights on it to simulate the day-night cycle. Every 12 hours, they would turn off the lights and water the tree every day. The trees were exposed to outside air at the normal rate for homes. Researchers continuously measured chemicals in indoor air.

What chemicals was the tree emitting?

The most commonly emitted volatile organic compound from the tree was monoterpene. The highest amount of emission occurred on the first day and its quantity started decreasing from the third day. Initially, the concentration of monoterpenes was approximately equivalent to that of plug-in air fresheners. However, Poppendieck said the levels rapidly dropped to about 10 times their original amount, according to a statement released by NIST.

At least 52 different types of monoterpenes were emitted. Upon injecting ozone into the chamber, researchers found that the compound reacted with monoterpenes, creating compounds such as formaldehyde and other reactive chemicals.

Due to the introduction of ozone, monoterpene concentrations decreased and formaldehyde levels increased. The amount of formaldehyde produced was about one part per billion, which is small compared to formaldehyde concentrations in American homes, which range from 20 to 30 parts per billion.

Live Christmas trees should not be placed in homes where people sensitive to volatile organic compounds live, as the emitted particles can cause watery eyes and runny nose.

If newly cut trees are left outside or kept in a garage for three days before bringing them into the house, the emission strength will reduce over time.

People should also water their Christmas tree every day, as a dry tree can become a fire hazard to one’s home.

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