Impact of Natural Gas Appliances on Pollutant Levels in California Homes

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This report presents results from the first year of a two-year study, investigating associations of five air pollutants (CO, NO2, NOX, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde) with the presence of natural gas appliances in California homes. From November 2011 to March 2012, pollutant concentration and occupant activity data were collected in 155 homes for 6-day periods. The sample population included both single-family (68%) and multi-family (32%) dwellings, with 87% having at least one gas appliance and 77% having an unvented gas cooking appliance. The geometric mean (GM) NO2 levels measured in the kitchen, bedroom and outside of homes were similar at values of 15, 12 and 11 ppb, respectively. In contrast, the GM NOx levels measured in the kitchen and bedroom of homes were much higher than levels measured outdoors, at levels of 42 and 41 ppb, compared to 19 ppb, respectively. Roughly 10% of sampled homes had 6-day average NO2 levels that exceeded the outdoor annual average limit set by the California Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) (30 ppb). The GMs of the highest 1-h and 8-h CO level measured in homes were 2.5 and 1.1 ppm, respectively. Four homes had a 1-h or 8-h concentration that exceeded the outdoor limits set by the CAAQS. The GM formaldehyde and acetaldehyde concentrations measured in homes were 15 and 7 ppb, respectively. Roughly 95% of homes had average formaldehyde levels indoors that exceeded the Chronic Reference Exposure Level set by the California EPA (7 ppb). Concentrations of NO2 and NOx, and to a lesser extent CO were associated with use of gas appliances, particularly unvented gas cooking appliances. Based on first principles, it is expected that effective venting of cooking pollutant emissions at the source will lead to a reduction of pollutant concentrations. However, no statistical association was detected between kitchen exhaust fan use and pollutant concentrations in homes in this study where gas cooking occurred frequently. The lack of statistical association between kitchen venting and pollutant concentrations may have been due to mischaracterization of whether or not range hoods were exhausting to the outdoors or were functioning properly, or due to a low capture efficiency of the range hood resulting from the predominant use of front cooktop burners by participants in this study.

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