A critical review of reported air concentrations of organic compounds in aircraft cabins

Indoor Air. 2003 Sep;13(3):292-301. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0668.2003.00202.x.


This paper presents a review and assessment of aircraft cabin air quality studies with measured levels of volatile and semivolatile organic compounds (VOCs and SVOCs). VOC and SVOC concentrations reported for aircraft cabins are compared with those reported for residential and office buildings and for passenger compartments of other types of transportation. An assessment of measurement technologies and quality assurance procedures is included. The six studies reviewed in the paper range in coverage from two to about 30 flights per study. None of the monitored flights included any unusual or episodic events that could affect cabin air quality. Most studies have used scientifically sound methods for measurements. Study results indicate that under routine aircraft operations, contaminant levels in aircraft cabins are similar to those in residential and office buildings, with two exceptions: (1). levels of ethanol and acetone, indicators of bioeffluents and chemicals from consumer products are higher in aircraft than in home or office environments, and (2). levels of certain chlorinated hydrocarbons and fuel-related contaminants are higher in residential/office buildings than in aircraft. Similarly, ethanol and acetone levels are higher in aircraft than in other transportation modes but the levels of some pollutants, such as m-/p-xylenes, tend to be lower in aircraft.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetone / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Aircraft*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Ethanol / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Research Design
  • Risk Assessment


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Acetone
  • Ethanol