The changing face of urban air pollution

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Science  16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 744-745
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar4925

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The atmospheric chemistry that leads to photochemical smog and climate-active aerosols requires the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (1, 2). The VOCs in urban air typically derive from the prevailing energy and transport technologies as well as the use of petrochemical-derived products. On page 760 of this issue, McDonald et al. (3) report that a notable change in emissions may be underway in U.S. cities, with effects on secondary pollutants such as organic aerosols. Shifting from an urban atmosphere dominated by transport-related VOCs to one dominated by VOCs from coatings, adhesives, and consumer products would alter predictions of urban air quality and challenge the existing policy framework for emissions control.