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Environ Pollut. 2017 Dec;231(Pt 1):681-693. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.08.065. Epub 2017 Aug 29.

Evaluation of VOC concentrations in indoor and outdoor microenvironments at near-road schools.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.
Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968, USA.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA.


A 14-week air quality study, characterizing the indoor and outdoor concentrations of 18 VOCs at four El Paso, Texas elementary schools, was conducted in Spring 2010. Three schools were in an area of high traffic density and the fourth school, considered as a background school, was situated in an area affected minimally by stationary and mobile sources of air pollution. Passive samplers were deployed for monitoring and analyzed by GC/MS. Differences in the concentration profiles of the BTEX species between the high and low traffic density schools confirmed the pre-defined exposure patterns. Toluene was the predominant compound within the BTEX group and the 96-hr average outdoor concentrations varied from 1.16 to 4.25 μg/m3 across the four schools. Outdoor BTEX species were strongly correlated with each other (0.63 < r < 1.00, p < 0.05) suggesting a common source: vehicular traffic emissions. As expected, the strength of the associations between these compounds was more intense at each of the three high-exposure schools in contrast to the low-exposure school. This was further corroborated by the results obtained from the BTEX inter-species ratios (toluene: benzene and m, p- xylenes: ethylbenzene). Certain episodic events during the study period resulted in very elevated concentrations of some VOCs such as n-pentane. Indoor concentration of compounds with known indoor sources such as α -pinene, d-limonene, p-dichlorobenzene, and chloroform were generally higher than their corresponding outdoor concentrations. Cleaning agents, furniture polishes, materials used in arts and crafts activities, hot-water usage, and deodorizing cakes used in urinal pots were the likely major sources for these high indoor concentrations. Finally, retrospective assessment of average ambient BTEX concentrations over the last twenty years suggest a gradual decrement in this border region.


Air quality monitoring; BTEX; Passive samplers; Schools; VOCs

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