Indoor-outdoor distribution and risk assessment of volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere of industrial and urban areas

Laura Massolo, Martina Rehwagen, Andres Porta, Alicia Ronco, Olf Herbarth, Andrea Mueller
Environmental Toxicology 2010, 25 (4): 339-49
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which play an important part indoors and outdoors, comprise differing compound groups such as n-alkanes, cycloalkanes, aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons and terpenes. In the current study, samples were analyzed from indoor (schools and houses, n = 92) and outdoor (n = 33) air in urban, industrial, semirural and residential areas from the region of La Plata (Argentine) to consider VOC exposure in different types of environments. VOCs were sampled for 1 month during winter for 3 years, with passive 3M monitors. Samples were extracted with CS(2) and analyzed by GC/MS detectors. The results show significant differences in concentration and distribution between indoor and outdoor samples, depending on the study area. Most VOCs predominantly originated indoors in urban, semirural and residential areas, whereas an important outdoor influence in the industrial area was observed. In all areas alkanes and aromatic compounds dominated, even though a different chemical distribution was seen. Traffic burden was determined as the major source of outdoor VOC with a benzene/toluene ratio close to 0.5. Indoors, C9-C11 alkanes, toluene and xylenes dominated, caused by human activities. In contrast, in the industrial area higher concentrations of hexane, heptane and benzene occurred outdoors and affected the indoor air significantly. The lifetime cancer risk (LCR) associated to the benzene exposure was calculated for children from the different study areas. For all groups the study showed a LCR value greater than 1 x 10(-6) related to the benzene exposure indoors as well outdoors. A value two magnitudes higher was detected indoors in the industrial area, what demonstrates the high risk for children living in this area of La Plata.

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