These improved tools of the lab come in conjunction with new discoveries in gaseous toxins found in significant quantities in our homes, workplaces, and outdoor surroundings, such as emissions from paints, carpeting, plastic-based flooring, according to the published paper. "The sources of some chemicals are well-known and extensively studied in the literature, while others simply appear in the complex chemical soup that surrounds us with no identified, or several potential, sources. Because they are present in a gaseous form, exposure is obligatory, as no one can refuse to breathe," the researchers wrote.
"The breath presents a composite of all doses, providing information about exogenous compounds absorbed from the surroundings, as well as changes in endogenous compounds which may result from such exposures. Achieving such goals will allow for the advancement of breath analysis as a means of quantifying environmental exposures and doses, as well as useful data which can eventually be used to limit individuals' exposure to harmful contaminant," the researches continued.
Dietrich and her collaborators ask subjects to breathe into sterile plastic, then process the captured exhaled air through small sorption devices about the size of a penny. There are several challenges to analyzing breath, including the presence of water vapor that can gunk up sensors, and the fact that no one yet knows what constitutes "normal" breath. "We don't really know what normal breath is and there are likely variations in the number of compounds and concentrations depending on the individual and their activities," Dietrich said.
For instance: A person living in, say, P
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