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J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2003 Jan;13(1):31-41.

Measurement of volatile organic compounds inside automobiles.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, California, USA.


The objective of the current study was to evaluate the types and concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the passenger cabin of selected sedan automobiles under static (parked, unventilated) and specified conditions of operation (i.e., driving the vehicle using air conditioning alone, vent mode alone, or driver's window half open). Data were collected on five different passenger sedan vehicles from three major automobile manufacturers. Airborne concentrations were assessed using 90-min time-weighted average (TWA) samples under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Method IP-1B to assess individual VOC compounds and total VOCs (TVOCs) calibrated to toluene. Static vehicle testing demonstrated TVOC levels of approximately 400-800 microg/m(3) at warm interior vehicle temperatures (approximately 80 degrees F), whereas TVOCs at least fivefold higher were observed under extreme heat conditions (e.g., up to 145 degrees F). The profile of most prevalent individual VOC compounds varied considerably according to vehicle brand, age, and interior temperature tested, with predominant compounds including styrene, toluene, and 8- to 12-carbon VOCs. TVOC levels under varied operating conditions (and ventilation) were generally four- to eightfold lower (at approximately 50-160 microg/m(3)) than the static vehicle measurements under warm conditions, with the lowest measured levels generally observed in the trials with the driver's window half open. These data indicate that while relatively high concentrations of certain VOCs can be measured inside static vehicles under extreme heat conditions, normal modes of operation rapidly reduce the inside-vehicle VOC concentrations even when the air conditioning is set on recirculation mode.

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