Preliminary investigation of using volatile organic compounds from human expired air, blood and urine for locating entrapped people in earthquakes

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2005 Aug 5;822(1-2):112-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2005.05.028.


A preliminary investigation on the possibility of using volatile organic compounds (VOCs) determination of expired air, blood and urine, for the early location of entrapped people in earthquakes, has been carried out. A group of 15 healthy subjects has been sampled. The identification of a common "core" of substances might provide indications of human presence that can be used for the development of a real time field analytical method for the on site detection of entrapped people. Expired air samples have been analyzed by thermal desorption GC/MS and VOCs from blood and urine by headspace SPME-GC/MS. Acetone was the only compound found common in all three matrices. Isoprene was found in both expired air and blood samples. Acetone and isoprene along with a number of saturated hydrocarbons were among the major constituents identified in expired air analysis. Various ketones (2-pentanone, 4-heptanone, 2-butanone) were also determined over urine specimens. Using the techniques and methods of field analytical chemistry and technology appears to be the proper approach for applying the results of the present study in real situations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetone / analysis
  • Adult
  • Breath Tests* / methods
  • Butadienes / analysis
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Hemiterpenes / analysis
  • Humans
  • Ketones / analysis
  • Male
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis*
  • Organic Chemicals / blood
  • Organic Chemicals / urine
  • Pentanes / analysis
  • Rescue Work / methods*
  • Respiration*
  • Volatilization


  • Butadienes
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Ketones
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Pentanes
  • isoprene
  • Acetone