Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Ubiquitous Journey of Propylene Oxide

While Propylene Oxide (PO) may not be as infamous as some chemicals, its widespread use in industrial and consumer applications has made it a constant presence in our environment. Industries that rely on PO include those producing polyurethane polyols, propylene glycol, and fumigants.

The global market for Propylene Oxide estimated at $14.4 billion in 2020, is projected to reach $18.8 billion by 2027. Additionally, traffic emissions contribute to ambient levels of propylene, the precursor of PO, further underscoring its ubiquitous nature.

Recent research has revealed that many chemicals, including PO, leave more significant marks on the human body than previously thought. A new study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found chlormequat, a lesser-known pesticide, in 80% of people tested. Chlormequat chloride, used increasingly on grain crops in North America, has been linked to reduced fertility and developmental harm at doses lower than regulatory agencies' allowable daily intake levels. The study reported a significant increase in chlormequat concentrations in urine samples collected in 2023 compared to previous years.

A recent systematic review published on MedrXiv, titled "Biological Factors Influencing Individual Responses to Propylene Oxide," sheds light on the complex interplay between environmental exposures, genetic makeup, and individual susceptibility concerning PO levels in the human body. This review highlights the growing public health significance of propylene oxide beyond occupational exposure.

The study emphasizes the importance of considering individual variability in response to PO exposure, influenced by factors such as sex, dietary preferences, genetics, and physiology. It focuses on several genes (CYPs, mEH, GSTT1, GSTM1, FMO3, ADH, ALDH, GDHt) and microbes (including opportunistic pathogens, neutral or even beneficial bacteria) that could be relevant to PO metabolism reactivation and elimination from the body.

PO, primarily encountered through inhalation in occupational settings, poses potential health risks due to its genotoxic effects on DNA. The metabolism of PO primarily occurs through glutathione conjugation and epoxide hydrolase-mediated hydration, with interspecies differences noted. Furthermore, the human microbiome's role in PO metabolism highlights the complexity of individual responses, while environmental factors and seasonal variations further modulate PO's impact.

This comprehensive review stresses the limitations in our abilities to maintain and continuously update living reviews and indexing. It also emphasizes the importance of advancing AI capabilities in literature reviews to capture nuanced, indirect evidence more effectively. While AI tools like Elicit and Perplexity show promise, challenges persist in processing longer segments of information and ensuring consistency across platforms.

Moving forward, the development of specialized AI architectures tailored for systematic reviews is imperative. By enhancing AI tools strategically, we can navigate the complexities of scientific literature more effectively, enabling better summarization and addressing unanswered questions in environmental health research. This study paves the way for targeted research and technological innovation, advocating for a multidisciplinary approach to understanding individual responses to environmental chemicals like PO.


REFERENCES

Gabashvili, IS. Biological Factors Influencing Individual Responses to Propylene Oxide: A Systematic Review medRxiv 2024.02.15.24302622; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2024.02.15.24302622

Temkin, A.M., Evans, S., Spyropoulos, D.D. et al. A pilot study of chlormequat in food and urine from adults in the United States from 2017 to 2023. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-024-00643-4


Open-Source Project: OSF | Biological Factors that Influence Individual Responses to Environmental Epoxides DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/W7682

Monday, December 4, 2023

The Hidden Dangers of Your Morning Hair Routine

The air we breathe can carry hidden risks that warrant our attention and action.

Recent research from Purdue University has shed light on a surprising health concern that arises from one of the most common morning rituals: hair care. In a detailed study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers reveal how the use of hair care products (HCPs) leads to the inhalation of significant amounts of potentially harmful chemicals.

Chemical compounds such as decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5 siloxane), are favored in the industry for their properties such as low surface tension, inertness, and their ability to provide a smooth texture to hair products. However, the research highlights their darker side.

The Purdue University team discovered that during a typical hair care session, a person can inhale between 1 to 17 milligrams of these chemicals. This exposure is alarming, given the potential health risks associated with these compounds. In laboratory animals, D5 siloxane has shown adverse effects on the respiratory tract, liver, and nervous system. Its impact on human health over the long term, however, remains largely unexplored. The study also revealed that the application of high heat, as is common with hair straighteners and curling irons, significantly increases chemical emissions. At temperatures around 210 degrees Celsius, emissions can increase by 50% to 310%.

The inhalation of other products from hair care products - such as monoterpenes and propylene glycol could also have health implications.

Real-time siloxane measurements via proton-transfer-reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry were used to measure VOCs in the air. Siloxane-based HCPs were tested using common hair styling techniques, including straightening, curling, waving, and oiling. 

The implications of this study go beyond personal health. These airborne chemicals don't just stay confined to our bathrooms; they spread throughout the house and even outside, contributing to urban air pollution. This finding is especially significant in densely populated areas where many people using similar products could significantly impact air quality.



REFERENCE

Jiang J, Ding X, Patra SS, Cross JN, Huang C, Kumar V, Price P, Reidy EK, Tasoglou A, Huber H, Stevens PS, Boor BE, Jung N. Siloxane Emissions and Exposures during the Use of Hair Care Products in Buildings. Environ Sci Technol. 2023 Nov 16. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.3c05156. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37971371.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Holocene: Leading the Charge for Sustainable Carbon Reduction

Over 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth formed, initially enveloped in an atmosphere rich in hydrogen, helium, and water vapor. As the planet cooled, the water vapor condensed to form oceans, leaving behind an atmosphere composed of gases including CO2, nitrogen, and methane. Around 4.4 billion years ago, the Earth's molten surface solidified to form the first crust, marking the end of the planet's early molten state.

During the initial million years post its formation, the Earth's atmosphere might have contained CO2 concentrations as high as 10,000 ppm, primarily because there were no life forms to absorb CO2 through photosynthesis. Around 4.3 to 4.4 billion years ago, the Earth had cooled sufficiently for water to condense and form oceans, as evidenced by zircon crystals from that period.

Life began to emerge between 3.5 and 3.7 billion years ago, with the earliest direct evidence being fossilized bacteria from this time. This suggests that conditions conducive to life had existed for hundreds of millions of years before the first life forms appeared. The early atmosphere was dominated by gases such as water vapor, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen, with a notable absence of oxygen.

In the first few hundred million years, CO2 levels were exceedingly high, possibly over 5000 ppm, due to extensive volcanic outgassing and minimal absorption by rocks and emerging life forms. Around 2.7 billion years ago, the advent of cyanobacteria, capable of photosynthesis, began to gradually reduce CO2 levels. By the end of the Archean eon, approximately 2.5 billion years ago, CO2 levels had potentially decreased to about 4000 ppm, a hundred times the present levels. During the early Proterozoic era, the CO2 concentration remained between 10 and 100 times higher than today's levels.

As life continued to evolve, the decline in CO2 levels accelerated, with plants and algae playing a significant role in this reduction through the process of photosynthesis, where they consumed CO2 to produce oxygen and food, releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. Between 600 and 400 million years ago, the Earth experienced another phase of extremely high CO2 concentrations, exceeding 6000 ppm. This period, characterized by a warmer climate, saw the flourishing of primitive plant life forms that thrived in the carbon-rich environment.

Around 50 million years ago, during the Eocene epoch, the Earth experienced a significant decline in atmospheric CO2 levels. This period is known for a series of drastic changes in the Earth's climate and environment. The movement of Earth's plates led to the uplift of mountain ranges, which increased weathering rates when CO2 was consumed from the air and converted into carbonate rocks. The spread of grasslands increased the rate of weathering of continental rocks. A reduction in volcanic activity and increased carbon sequestration in the deep sea, as well as the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet as well as spread of new types of phytoplankton could have also contributed. 

The decline in CO2 levels during this period is associated with a general cooling trend, which eventually led to the ice ages of the more recent geological past. It's a complex interplay of geological, biological, and climatic factors that contributed to the dramatic fall in CO2 levels during this period.

The Holocene epoch, which began around 11,700 years ago and continues to the present day, is often characterized by relative climatic stability and prosperity, especially when compared to the fluctuating climates of the preceding Pleistocene epoch. The stable climate of the Holocene facilitated the rise of ancient civilizations, including Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization, and others. These civilizations were able to develop complex societies, with advancements in technology, art, and architecture. The Holocene has also been a period of rich biodiversity, with a wide variety of flora and fauna flourishing in various ecosystems around the world. 

While the debate continues regarding our entry into a potentially less stable epoch known as the Anthropocene, there is a concerted human effort to address the escalating levels of CO2 in the atmosphere through innovative technologies.

Direct Air Capture (DAC) stands as a pivotal technology in the array of Negative Emission Technologies (NETs) aimed at mitigating the escalating levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. This technology encompasses various systems including absorption and adsorption methods, which are currently the most mature and extensively researched approaches. These systems function by capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere, either storing it to reduce long-term environmental impact or utilizing it in other chemical processes, thereby fostering a human-controlled carbon cycle. However, the nascent stage of this technology presents a spectrum of costs and energy consumption values, necessitating further research and development to enhance efficiency and economic viability. Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as thermal and electrical energy consumption, operational and capital expenditures, and environmental impact serve as critical metrics in evaluating and advancing DAC technologies. As the scientific community and industries strive to refine these technologies, the focus remains on optimizing various factors including the energy required for regeneration, the binding affinity of sorbents and solvents to CO2, and the design of air contactors. 

In this evolving landscape, the Holocene company emerges as an important player, contributing towards achieving global climate goals.

Holocene is a startup based in Knoxville that is focused on developing and building plants capable of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The company has licensed a sustainable chemistry developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air. This technology utilizes a water-based, low-temperature process that employs an aqueous solution containing Bis-iminoguanidine (BIGs) receptors to absorb CO2, which then transforms into an insoluble crystalline salt that can be easily separated from the solution.

In the ever-evolving sphere of climate technology, accolades and recognitions serve as testament to the relentless efforts and innovations that companies bring to the fore. The Holocene company, despite not clinching the top spot at today's Innov865 annual pitch competition, managed to leave a lasting impression with their compelling and well-articulated pitch. Their technology, already a recipient of the prestigious R&D 100 Award, stands out in the quest to curb carbon emissions, promising a cleaner, greener tomorrow for generations to come.



REFERENCES

James W.B. Rae, Yi Ge Zhang, Xiaoqing Liu, Gavin L. Foster, Heather M. Stoll, Ross D.M. Atmospheric CO2 over the Past 66 Million Years from Marine Archives. Whiteford Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 2021 49:1, 609-641

Leonzio G, Fennell PS, Shah N. Analysis of technologies for carbon dioxide capture from the air. Applied Sciences. 2022 Aug 19;12(16):8321.

Kasturi A, Jang GG, Akin AD, Jackson A, Jun J, Stamberga D, Custelcean R, Sholl DS, Yiacoumi S, Tsouris C. An effective air–liquid contactor for CO2 direct air capture using aqueous solvents. Separation and Purification Technology. 2023 Nov 1;324:124398.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Hemoglobin Adducts and Other Biomarkers for Assessing Chemical Exposure

Hemoglobin adducts have long been a focus of study in the field of environmental exposure, with growing research revealing their importance as biomarkers for internal exposure to chemicals. 

Hemoglobin (Hb) adducts are formed when specific chemicals react with hemoglobin or other proteins, leading to compounds known as adducts. These adducts can be measured, making them invaluable for understanding whether a person has been exposed to particular chemicals, such as glycidol, acrylamide, and glucose.

Exposure to chemicals that bond with the N-terminal valine of Hb, like glycidol, acrylamide, can affect the formation of individual Hb adducts. This has been analyzed using in vitro and in vivo systems, showing that simultaneous exposure, factors such as glucose, serum albumin, and other chemicals could alter adduct formation. 

Hemoglobin adducts of substances like butadiene, ethylene oxide, acrylamide, and acrylonitrile have significant advantages, and in some cases, they are more useful than other types of biomarkers. Hemoglobin adducts from acrylamide, for example, have been associated with a higher risk of mortality and cardiovascular diseases in humans.

In certain industries, like the production of surfactants for the textile industry, the levels of specific adducts can provide valuable insights into occupational exposure.

Lifestyle choices also pay a role. A study revealed correlations between smoking habits and adduct levels, showing how personal choices might impact the formation of these adducts. Yet, while there was a strong correlation with the number of cigarettes smoked daily, high levels of Hb adducts in nonsmoking workers suggested potential exposure from other sources such as food and drinks. 

While hemoglobin adducts offer a promising way to assess exposure to various chemicals, other methods like measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath or measuring urinary byproducts of metabolism also exist. 

Urinary metabolites, like 2-HPMA for propylene oxide exposure, reflect a shorter window of exposure. These metabolites are excreted in the urine, and their concentration can provide insight into exposure over a time frame that generally spans up to 24 hours. The exact window may vary depending on the specific compound, metabolism, and excretion rates. Factors like testing methodology, exposure level and duration, diet and hydration, age, gender, kidney function, and overall health can influence how quickly substances are metabolized and excreted.

While Hemoglobin Adducts provide integrated exposure information over several months (reflecting exposure over the life span of red blood cells, typically 120 days) and are suitable for assessing exposure to a wide range of chemicals, not only those in the air, VOCs offer real-time exposure information and are less complicated by the simultaneous exposure to other chemicals - although cumulative effects play a role too. 


REFERENCES

Schettgen T, Broding HC, Angerer J, Drexler H. Hemoglobin adducts of ethylene oxide, propylene oxide, acrylonitrile and acrylamide–biomarkers in occupational and environmental medicine. Toxicology letters. 2002 Aug 5;134(1-3):65-70.

Schettgen T, Müller J, Fromme H, Angerer J. Simultaneous quantification of haemoglobin adducts of ethylene oxide, propylene oxide, acrylonitrile, acrylamide and glycidamide in human blood by isotope-dilution GC/NCI-MS/MS. Journal of Chromatography B. 2010 Oct 1;878(27):2467-73.

Schettgen T, Müller J, Ferstl C, Angerer J, Göen T, Hartwig A, MAK Commission. Haemoglobin adducts of ethylene oxide (N-(2-hydroxyethyl)valine), propylene oxide (N-(2-hydroxypropyl)valine), acrylonitrile (N-(2-cyanoethyl)valine), acrylamide (N-(2-carbonamide ethyl)valine) and glycidamide (N-(2-hydroxy-2-carbonamide ethyl)valine) [Biomonitoring Methods, 2015] The MAK-Collection for Occupational Health and Safety 2017, 1 (1) (2016), pp. 473-506, 10.1002/3527600418.bi7521e2115

Shimamura Y, Okuda A, Ichikawa K, Inagaki R, Ito S, Honda H, Masuda S. Factors influencing the formation of chemical–hemoglobin adducts. Toxics. 2021 Dec 21;10(1):2.

Zhao FC, Li X, Wang YX, Zhou SJ, Lu Y. Relationship between acrylamide and glycidamide hemoglobin adduct levels and osteoarthritis: a NHANES analysis. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 2023 May 22:1-1.

Dos Santos LD, de Souza TL, da Silva GI, de Mello MF, de Oliveira JM, Romano MA, Romano RM. Prepubertal oral exposure to relevant doses of acrylamide impairs the testicular antioxidant system in adulthood, increasing protein carbonylation and lipid peroxidation. Environmental Pollution. 2023 Jul 4:122132.

Project: OSF | Biological Factors that Influence Individual Responses to Environmental Epoxides DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/W7682

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Power of Wastewater-Based Epidemiology

Wastewater surveillance is a valuable tool for monitoring public health and detecting infectious diseases. It plays a crucial role in understanding the interconnection between human activities, public health, and environmental well-being. Wastewater contains a wide range of pollutants, including pathogens, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and microplastics, which can pose risks to both human and environmental health. As the field progresses, innovative methodologies are continuously being developed, providing advancements in time and cost efficiency for analysis. 

by author, with ChatGPT & Bing image Creator

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) emerged in 2001 as a method to monitor drug abuse, and it has since evolved to include various technological advancements in substance detection, providing near real-time and unbiased insights to prevent future drug epidemics. The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a renewed interest in WBE and highlighted the link between wastewater and population health. The UC Merced COVIDpoops dashboard and the Biobot Network of Wastewater Treatment Plants are examples of global initiatives monitoring SARS-CoV-2 RNA and monkey pox virus DNA in wastewater, with data generated from numerous sites and representing millions of people. 

Wastewater surveillance is a rapidly advancing field with immense potential for enhancing public health, disease prevention, and response to future health crises. By analyzing wastewater, we can gain valuable insights into the health of communities and effectively monitor infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and illicit drug consumption.

WBE has proven to be a valuable tool in detecting various substances and environmental factors in our communities. Beyond its most known applications in monitoring illicit drugs, COVID-19 and enteric viruses, WBE has expanded to encompass the detection of various pharmaceuticals, dietary biomarkers, and environmental contaminants such as metals. By providing a holistic understanding of a city's metabolism, WBE contributes to our knowledge of population health and environmental well-being. As we continue to harness the power of WBE, it is crucial to consider environmental justice and equity when determining the locations for monitoring. With continued advancements and broader implementation, WBE holds the potential to revolutionize public health, enhance environmental monitoring, and promote a more sustainable and equitable future.


REFERENCES

Cheng, Q., Chunhong, Z. & Qianglin, L. Development and application of random forest regression soft sensor model for treating domestic wastewater in a sequencing batch reactor. Sci Rep 13, 9149 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-36333-8

Demian S. Barcellos, Carlos E.R. Barquilha, Pâmela E. Oliveira, Mario Prokopiuk, Ramiro G. Etchepare, How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted wastewater-based epidemiology?, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 892, 2023, 164561, ISSN 0048-9697, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.164561.

Gitter A, Oghuan J, Godbole AR, Chavarria CA, Monserrat C, Hu T, Wang Y, Maresso AW, Hanson BM, Mena KD and Wu F (2023), Not a waste: Wastewater surveillance to enhance public health. Front. Chem. Eng. 4:1112876. https://doi.org/10.3389/fceng.2022.1112876

Rhodes T, Lancaster K. Early warnings and slow deaths: a sociology of outbreak and overdose. International Journal of Drug Policy. 2023 Jul 1;117:104065.

Naughton CC, Roman Jr FA, Alvarado AG, Tariqi AQ, Deeming MA, Kadonsky KF, Bibby K, Bivins A, Medema G, Ahmed W, Katsivelis P. Show us the data: global COVID-19 wastewater monitoring efforts, equity, and gaps. FEMS Microbes. 2023;4:xtad003.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Participatory Environmental Health Research

The field of environmental health is facing increasingly complex challenges that require innovative approaches to research and decision-making. One promising strategy is to expand the participation of the community, which has the potential to enhance the effectiveness and relevance of health sciences. Although this approach is relatively new in the field of environmental health, it has a long history of success in other scientific disciplines such as ornithology, where citizen science initiatives like bird counts have been taking place for over a century, and geography where land use surveys were carried out by school children in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Crowdsourcing could achieve in months what would take years through conventional research approaches. Passive Citizen science and digital citizen panels speed up research by increasing the numbers of participants and data points, making data collection more cost-effective and efficient, and by improving the engagement and participation of community members. “Extreme” citizen science and quantified-self approaches would go even further to involve the public in co-creation, co-design, data analysis, interpretation, and, ultimately, public health actions. Awareness to stay fit and healthy and the use of fitness trackers continues to rise, especially among a growing aging population with disposable income to burn, but this hasn't yet resulted in the rise of Collaboratory Health Research

Crowdsourced online information has been used for tracking the spread of biological contaminants and infectious diseases for several years now. While games like Flu-City, and Big Tech- or government-supported programs like HealthMap, FluTrackingEPA maps, many other apps ceased to exist. Sickweather, launched in 2011 reached an audience of 10 million daily active users during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic, filed for bankruptcy in 2022. Apparently their "NoPeek” privacy solution wasn't sufficient for gaining citizens’ trust and engagement. 

Despite the early promise of passive crowdsourcing, it often struggles with accuracy issues. For example, Google Flu Trends (launched in 2008 and used aggregated search query data, initially claiming 97% accuracy when compared to CDC data) was criticized for not being able to predict the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and overestimating influenza-like activity in the United States during the 2012–2013 flu season. Web-based crowdsourcing was used to digitize geospatial information on thousands of public drinking water service areas in California.

Controlled community-team-based studies (active crowdsourcing) also report larger numbers for disease incidence and side effects of drugs (adverse event preventing from daily activities). This, however, is not an overestimate - and it is in line with recent findings of circulating unbound spike protein after COVID-19 vaccination. 

Communities are better able to provide key ground-truthed information. People's perception of environmental health hazards may not be consistently associated with their health outcomes since their health vulnerabilities vary, depending on the age, gender and other variables. Citizen scientists can, however, operate sensors to collect more objective and accurate data - continuously and in real-time. In our community-based studies, these were gut microbiome, urine, blood, environmental and exhaled air samples. The development of portable air monitors, sensing platforms for detection of various inorganic, organic, and biological analytes and home urine labs has made it possible to track changes in environmental health on a global scale. While there are limitations to sensor technology in terms of sensitivity and selectivity, they continue to evolve along with participatory health approaches and have the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of the impact of the environment on human health.


REFERENCES

Jeanjean M, Dron J, Allen BL, Gramaglia C, Austruy A, Lees J, Ferrier Y, Periot M, Dotson MP, Chamaret P, Cohen AK. Participatory environmental health research: A tool to explore the socio-exposome in a major european industrial zone. Environmental Research. 2023 Feb 1;218:114865.

Gabashvili IS The Incidence and Effect of Adverse Events Due to COVID-19 Vaccines on Breakthrough Infections: Decentralized Observational Study With Underrepresented Groups JMIR Form Res 2022;6(11):e41914 doi: 10.2196/41914 PMID: 36309347 PMCID: 9640199

Gabashvili IS Cutaneous Bacteria in the Gut Microbiome as Biomarkers of Systemic Malodor and People Are Allergic to Me (PATM) Conditions: Insights From a Virtually Conducted Clinical Trial JMIR Dermatol 2020;3(1):e10508 doi: 10.2196/10508

Siira E, Wolf A. Are digital citizen panels an innovative, deliberative approach to cardiovascular research? Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2022 Apr 9;21(3):287-291. doi: 10.1093/eurjcn/zvab132. PMID: 35030241.

English PB, Richardson MJ, Garzón-Galvis C. From crowdsourcing to extreme citizen science: participatory research for environmental health. Annual review of public health. 2018 Apr 1;39:335-50.

Liu Y, Kwan MP, Kan Z. Inconsistent Association between Perceived Air Quality and Self-Reported Respiratory Symptoms: A Pilot Study and Implications for Environmental Health Studies. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2023 Jan 13;20(2):1491.

Gabashvili IS. Effects of diet, activities, environmental exposures and trimethylamine metabolism on alveolar breath compounds: protocol for a retrospective case-cohort observational study medRxiv 2021.01.25.21250101; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.25.21250101

Khizar S, Zine N, Jaffrezic-Renault N, Elaissari A, Errachid A. Prospective analytical role of sensors for environmental screening and monitoring. TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry. 2022 Aug 3:116751.

Monday, December 19, 2022

The Environmental Health Benefits of Self-Cleaning Houses

In today's fast-paced world, it seems that we are constantly fighting against the pull of entropy, trying to keep our built environments free of unwanted matter: dust and dirt, mold and other substances that may pose a risk to the health and well-being.

In the 19th century, Oscar Wilde famously stated, "We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces." -  generating pollution, unwanted microorganisms and allergens.  As automation becomes increasingly prevalent in our lives, it's easy to wonder why some maintenance tasks are still performed by human workers. Despite the proliferation of "smart" technologies, many of the futuristic features we were promised in model homes and prototypes have yet to become a reality. From 3D printers for disposable dinner plates to virtual girlfriends that can cook and clean, it seems that we are still waiting for the advanced home technologies predicted in science-fiction. In the past, we have seen many interesting ideas such as Frances Gabe's self-cleaning home in Oregon and the rounded corners proposed by Buckminster Fuller and Peter and Alison Smithson to improve cleaning. 

Frances Gabe, known for her innovative approach to housework in the 1980s, wanted to make housework extinct. As a busy mother of two, she grew tired of the never-ending cycle of cleaning and built a self-cleaning house that used sprinklers and drying machines to channel water into drains that led outside. Gabe received a lot of attention and notoriety during the heyday of her self-cleaning house, but later faded from the public eye. She was known to be a bit of a recluse and had a reputation for being "difficult," according to some friends and neighbors. Despite her innovative approach to housework, Gabe's life ended rather anonymously, having divorced and outlived her two children. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 2001 severely damaged the technology in the self-cleaning house and it is now used as a "wintering habitat for honeybee colonies and campground for traveling cyclists" by its current owner. 

While Gabe's self-cleaning house may have been ahead of its time, today we are seeing more and more innovations in home cleaning technology, such as automatic vacuum cleaners and self-cleaning toilets. The latter technology can reduce the risk of cross-contamination and the need for harsh chemicals.

As Sigmund Freud suggested, our jokes often reveal our unconscious desires, and this may explain why the idea of a self-cleaning car was such a hit when Subaru introduced it as an April Fool's joke in 2013. The "Carbon electric paint" technology was supposed to use ambient air and a surge of electricity to clean the car's exterior. It seemed that people wanted the self-cleaning feature even more than self-driving.

According to a survey conducted by the American Cleaning Institute in 2018, the average American spends approximately six hours per week cleaning their home, with over a quarter of respondents spending over seven hours straightening up. Despite this effort, many of us still wonder if we are cleaning enough and if we are doing it correctly. Our most regularly cleaned fixtures are toilets and floors, and our most dreaded cleaning tasks are typically cleaning the bathroom, followed by kitchen cleaning, dusting, mopping, and doing the laundry. 

But while some fictional homes, like those in Back to the Future and Blade Runner, have been able to incorporate robots and automated features to assist with tasks like feeding pets and preparing meals, it seems that we are still far from achieving a truly self-sufficient home. Perhaps the closest we have come to realizing some of these futuristic home technologies is through the use of smart home assistants, like speakers that can turn on lights or set up a virtual card table for a weekly game of bridge. While these technologies are certainly convenient, they are still a far cry from the kind of self-sustaining homes that we were promised in the past. 

As technology continues to advance, it is likely that we will see "smarter" or even "living" houses. Researchers are working on developing robots that can perform tasks like laundry and dishwashing, and there are even companies exploring the use of drones for tasks like roof inspections and window cleaning. It will be interesting to see how these technologies evolve and how they can be used to make our lives easier in the future. Maybe one day we'll even be able to leave behind no-longer needed cleaning tools for good.

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IG: Special thanks to OpenAI's Assistant for their help with organizing my old notes and writing this article.