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J Environ Monit. 2004 Sep;6(9):745-52. Epub 2004 Aug 18.

Background concentrations of individual and total volatile organic compounds in residential indoor air of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

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  • 1Institute of Environmental Medicine, Environmental Toxicology and Hygiene, Brunswiker Strasse 4, 24105 Kiel, Germany.


During a monitoring campaign concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were measured in indoor air of 79 dwellings where occupants had not complained about health problems or unpleasant odour. Parameters monitored were the individual concentration of 68 VOCs and the total concentration of all VOCs inside the room. VOCs adsorbed by Tenax TA were then analysed by means of thermal desorption, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. The analytical procedure and quantification was done according to the recommendation of the ECA-IAQ Working Group 13 which gave a definition of the total volatile organic compound (TVOC) concentration. Using this recommendation TVOC-concentrations ranged between 33 and 1600 microg m(-3) with a median of 289 microg m(-3). Compounds found in every sample and with the highest concentrations were 2-propanol, alpha-pinene and toluene. Save for a few samples, all concentrations measured have been a factor 2 to 10 lower, compared to data from similar studies. Only a few terpenes and aldehydes were found exceeding published reference data or odour threshold concentrations. However, it has been found that sampling and analysing methods do have a considerable impact on the results, making direct comparisons of studies somewhat questionable. 47% of all samples revealed concentrations exceeding the threshold value of 300 microg TVOC m(-3) set by the German Federal Environmental Agency as a target for indoor air quality. Using the TVOC concentration as defined in the ECA-IAQ methodology is instrumental in assessing exposure to VOCs and identifying sources of VOCs. The background concentrations determined in this study can be used to discuss and interpret target values for individual and total volatile organic compounds in indoor air.

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