An unexpected discovery of a big class of toxic, and previously unknown contaminants

December 7, 2022 by Kiran Champatsingh

In the study Widespread formation of toxic nitrated bisphenols indoors by heterogeneous reactions with HONO Prof. Hui Peng unexpectedly discovered a big class of toxic, and previously unknown contaminants that are formed via indoor chemistry. 


With numerous structurally diverse indoor contaminants, indoor transformation chemistry has been largely unexplored. Here, by integrating protein affinity purification and nontargeted mass spectrometry analysis (PUCA), we identified a substantial class of previously unrecognized indoor transformation products formed through gas-surface reactions with nitrous acid (HONO). Through the PUCA, we identified a noncommercial compound, nitrated bisphenol A (BPA), from house dust extracts strongly binding to estrogen-related receptor γ. The compound was detected in 28 of 31 house dust samples with comparable concentrations (ND to 0.30 μg/g) to BPA. Via exposing gaseous HONO to surface-bound BPA, we demonstrated it likely forms via a heterogeneous indoor chemical transformation that is highly selective toward bisphenols with electron-rich aromatic rings. We used 15N-nitrite for in situ labeling and found 110 nitration products formed from indoor contaminants with distinct aromatic moieties. This study demonstrates a previously unidentified class of chemical reactions involving indoor HONO, which should be incorporated into the risk evaluation of indoor contaminants, particularly bisphenols.