Measured concentrations of VOCs in several non-residential microenvironments in the United States

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Individuals spend about 25% of their time in non-residential indoor microenvironments. For some of these microenvironments, particularly stores and restaurants, exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have not been well characterized. In the Boston Exposure Assessment in Microenvironments (BEAM) study, sampling using scripted activities was conducted in stores, restaurants, and transportation in the summer of 2003 and winters of 2004 and 2005. A suite of VOCs including hydrocarbons, several chlorinated compounds, and aldehydes was analyzed. Nine store types were sampled using a composite design to enable a greater number of stores to be visited. Stores had higher concentrations of formaldehyde, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and styrene than other microenvironments, particularly in certain store types. Geometric mean formaldehyde levels were highest in the housewares stores, at 53 μg/m 3 (95% CI = 43, 66). Geometric mean toluene levels were highest in multipurpose stores, at 76 μg/m3 (95% CI = 50, 118). The levels observed in stores were several times higher than levels found in transportation microenvironments, and indicate strong indoor sources. In contrast, benzene did not have significantly higher levels in stores than typically found outdoors. Concentrations of formaldehyde and benzene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and styrene were strongly influenced by the presence of smoking in the dining microenvironment. Chloroform levels were higher in restaurants than in other microenvironments, with a geometric mean of 1.1 μg/m3 (95% CI = 0.7, 1.8). The VOC concentrations found in stores and restaurants in this study are a potentially important source of exposure for sensitive individuals or people who work in these microenvironments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6903-6911
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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