Health risk assessment of personal inhalation exposure to volatile organic compounds in Tianjin, China

Jian Zhou, Yan You, Zhipeng Bai, Yandi Hu, Jiefeng Zhang, Nan Zhang
Science of the Total Environment 2011 January 1, 409 (3): 452-9
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) exposure can induce a range of adverse human health effects. To date, however, personal VOCs exposure and residential indoor and outdoor VOCs levels have not been well characterized in the mainland of China, less is known about health risk of personal exposure to VOCs. In this study, personal exposures for 12 participants as well as residential indoor/outdoor, workplace and in vehicle VOCs concentrations were measured simultaneously in Tianjin, China. All VOCs samples were collected using passive samplers for 5 days and were analyzed using Thermal Desorption GC-MS method. U.S. Environmental Protect Agency's Inhalation Unit Risks were used to calculate the inhalation cancer health risk. To assess uncertainty of health risk estimate, Monte Carlo simulation and sensitivity analysis were implemented. Personal exposures were greater than residential indoor exposures as expected with the exception of carbon tetrachloride. Exposure assessment showed modeled and measured concentrations are statistically linearly correlated for all VOCs (P<0.01) except chloroform, confirming that estimated personal exposure using time-weighted model can provide reasonable estimate of personal inhalation exposure to VOCs. Indoor smoking and recent renovation were identified as two major factors influencing personal exposure based on the time-activity pattern and factor analysis. According to the cancer risk analysis of personal exposure, benzene, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and 1,3-butadiene had median upper-bound lifetime cancer risks that exceeded the U.S. EPA benchmark of 1 per one million, and benzene presented the highest median risks at about 22 per one million population. The median cumulative cancer risk of personal exposure to 5 VOCs was approximately 44 per million, followed by indoor exposure (37 per million) and in vehicle exposure (36 per million). Sensitivity analysis suggested that improving the accuracy of exposure measurement in further research would advance the health risk assessment.

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