Monday, October 15, 2012

Conservation of Matter

I'm certainly no scientist, but I do remember a few tidbits of information from my school days. One of those nuggets is the law of conservation of matter, which states that matter can't be created or destroyed, but only changed in form. In other words, the fact that something can no longer be seen or smelled doesn't mean it has ceased to exist. When a consumer product is used in a building, it may lose potency as it’s diluted or broken down into constituent parts, but it doesn't just magically vanish.

I'm thinking about that fact this week because of an article in New York's Daily News entitled "New York's air is full of junk."  The article chronicles the results of air sampling in various parts of the city. Yes, New York's air is full of junk, and it isn't necessarily the junk you might imagine.

Results of the air sampling include the following:

  • The air in Brooklyn Heights was full of fat, perhaps from the many neighborhood restaurants. Other items found in the sample were cotton fiber, silica glass, and tire rubber.

  • In Williamsburg, the air was full of human hair. Testing also revealed small paint particles, which were associated with a nail salon.

  • Starch filled the air in Chinatown, a likely result of cooking starchy foods and the use of starch-containing laundry products at local laundromats.

  • Air in an area of the city containing numerous clothing stores was found to contain many tiny fabric fibers, including a microscopic bright red polyester thread.

  • Not surprisingly, the air in a busy area near Times Square contained soot and a large quantity of carbon from vehicle exhaust.

  • An area near La Guardia airport contained tiny bits of colorful glass, perhaps from the airplanes taking off or landing.

I found the article to be an interesting reminder of the far-reaching effects of our product choices. If we use a product, it will be in the air. If it's in the air, it will soon be in our bodies. If it's in our bodies, it will affect us biologically. Perhaps remembering the law of conservation of matter will help us make safer choices both for ourselves and for those who share the air.

1 comment:

Ms.Teree said...

And to think, those are 'ordinary yucky' things in NY's air! But yucky is yucky- ick! regardless how that compares to what we typically think of as baaad things like this: which is what's still left in the air from Rocky Flats where I frequently drove by when I was young---or pesticides sprayed over head on all those cotton fields in Arizona---or... well pick your poison...

Hope people do start thinking more about these things, especially ones they CAN do something about personally, like all that fragrance they use!