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J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2004 Jan;14(1):44-59.

Air concentrations of VOCs in portable and traditional classrooms: results of a pilot study in Los Angeles County.

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  • 1Environmental Sciences and Engineering Program, UCLA School of Public Health, 650 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772, USA. dgshendell@lbl.gov

Abstract

Recent state and federal public school class-size reduction initiatives, increased elementary and pre-K enrollment driven by population growth and immigration, and limited resources for capital projects, modernization, and maintenance at aging schools have increased the prevalence of prefabricated, portable classrooms (portables). At present, approximately one of three California students are taught in portables, whose use is especially prevalent in more populated counties such as Los Angeles, home to the nation's second largest school district. Limited data existed on chemical compound air concentrations, and thus exposures, inside American public schools. Measurements have been limited, usually performed in complaint schools, and varied in sampling protocols and analysis methods. To address a school environment and children's health issue of present concern, an assessment of public school portables was conducted in Los Angeles County. Seven schools in two school districts were recruited, from which 20 classrooms--13 portables, seven in main buildings--were randomly selected. We report indoor air concentrations of 21 target toxic and odorous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, measured with passive samplers (DNSH PAKS and 3M OVM 3500) in the cooling and heating seasons between June 2000 and June 2001. None of the measured indoor air formaldehyde concentrations exceeded the existing California Air Resources Board guideline (50 ppb, or 60 microg/m(3)). The main sources of aldehydes in classrooms, especially portables, were likely interior finish materials and furnishings made of particleboard without lamination. Indoor air VOC concentrations were generally low in this pilot study. The four most prevalent VOCs measured were toluene, m-/p-xylene, alpha-pinene, and delta-limonene; likely indoor sources were personal, teaching, and cleaning products. Future schools research should attempt larger samples over larger geographical areas.

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