Volatile organic compounds associated with microbial growth in automobile air conditioning systems

Curr Microbiol. 2000 Sep;41(3):206-9. doi: 10.1007/s002840010120.


Volatile organic compounds from Penicillium viridicatum and Methylobacterium mesophilicum growing on laboratory media and on component materials of automobile air conditioners were analyzed with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. P. viridicatum produced compounds such as 4-methyl thiazole, terpenes and alcohols, whereas M. mesophilicum produced dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, and chlorophenol with growth on laboratory media. In comparison with laboratory media, fewer volatiles were detected from colonized foam insulation materials. Biofilms of M. mesophilicum on aluminum evaporator components produced mainly dimethyl disulfide. These biofilms, after inoculation with P. viridicatum, produced offensive smelling alcohols and esters such as 2-methyl propanol, 3-penten-2-ol, and the ethyl ester of butanoic acid. The moisture and substrates innate to the automobile air conditioning systems provided an environment suitable for microbial biofilm development and odor production. Reduction of retained moisture in the air conditioning system coupled with use of less susceptible or antimicrobial substrates are advised for remediation of the noxious odors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Conditioning*
  • Alcohols / analysis
  • Automobiles*
  • Biofilms*
  • Chlorophenols / analysis
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Culture Media
  • Disulfides / analysis
  • Esters / analysis
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Methylobacterium / metabolism*
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis*
  • Penicillium / growth & development
  • Penicillium / metabolism*
  • Sulfides / analysis
  • Terpenes / analysis
  • Thiazoles / analysis


  • Alcohols
  • Chlorophenols
  • Culture Media
  • Disulfides
  • Esters
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Sulfides
  • Terpenes
  • Thiazoles
  • dimethyl trisulfide
  • dimethyl disulfide