Contribution to volatile organic compound exposures from time spent in stores and restaurants and bars

Miranda M. Loh, E. Andres Houseman, Jonathan I. Levy, John D. Spengler, Deborah H. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Many people spend time in stores and restaurants, yet there has been little investigation of the influence of these microenvironments on personal exposure. Relative to the outdoors, transportation, and the home, these microenvironments have high concentrations of several volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We developed a stochastic model to examine the effect of VOC concentrations in these microenvironments on total personal exposure for (1) non-smoking adults working in offices who spend time in stores and restaurants or bars and (2) non-smoking adults who work in these establishments. We also compared the effect of working in a smoking versus non-smoking restaurant or bar. Input concentrations for each microenvironment were developed from the literature whereas time activity inputs were taken from the National Human Activity Patterns Survey. Time-averaged exposures were simulated for 5000 individuals over a weeklong period for each analysis. Mean contributions to personal exposure from non-working time spent in stores and restaurants or bars range from 5% to 20%, depending on the VOC and time-activity patterns. At the 95th percentile of the distribution of the proportion of personal exposure attributable to time spent in stores and restaurants or bars, these microenvironments can be responsible for over half of a person's total exposure to certain VOCs. People working in restaurants or bars where smoking is allowed had the highest fraction of exposure attributable to their workplace. At the median, people who worked in stores or restaurants tended to have 20-60% of their total exposures from time spent at work. These results indicate that stores and restaurants can be large contributors to personal exposure to VOCs for both workers in those establishments and for a subset of people who visit these places, and that incorporation of these non-residential microenvironments can improve models of personal exposure distributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-673
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Microenvironment
  • Personal exposure
  • Time activity.
  • Volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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