Method for the collection and analysis of volatile compounds in the breath

J Chromatogr. 1991 Mar 8;564(1):242-9. doi: 10.1016/0378-4347(91)80086-r.


A new method is described for the collection and assay of volatile compounds in the breath. Subjects expired into a pump-assisted collecting apparatus in which the breath was drawn through a water trap and then through an adsorptive trap where the volatile compounds were captured on graphitized carbon and molecular sieve. The sample was subsequently eluted from the trap by thermal desorption, concentrated by two-stage cryofocusing, then assayed by gas chromatography with flame ionization and flame photometric detection. Several compounds were regularly observed in the breath of normal human volunteers, including peaks eluting with the same retention times as isoprene, ethanol, acetone, acetaldehyde and carbon disulfide. As a quantitative assay for endogenous isoprene in the breath, the method was sensitive, linear, accurate and reproducible. This method provided a number of advantages: the collection technique was acceptable to volunteers and could be used at sites remote from the laboratory. The automated assay allowed isoprene and several other volatile compounds in the breath to be observed consistently and with improved sensitivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetaldehyde / analysis
  • Acetone / analysis
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Butadienes / analysis
  • Carbon Disulfide / analysis
  • Chromatography, Gas / methods
  • Ethanol / analysis
  • Hemiterpenes*
  • Humans
  • Pentanes*
  • Volatilization


  • Butadienes
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Pentanes
  • isoprene
  • Acetone
  • Ethanol
  • Acetaldehyde
  • Carbon Disulfide