Simultaneous indoor and outdoor on-line hourly monitoring of atmospheric volatile organic compounds in an urban building. The role of inside and outside sources

Sci Total Environ. 2012 Jun 1;426:327-35. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.04.003. Epub 2012 Apr 26.


Indoor air quality (IAQ) has become a very important issue in recent years. As in developed countries people spend more than 90% of their time indoors, besides outdoor pollution assessment, the indoor one is also required. IAQ is not only affected by indoor sources linked to indoor activities, outdoor sources such as road or street traffic and industrial and commercial activities have their role too. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) frequently show higher indoor mixing ratios with respect to the outdoor ones, and monitoring is required to report their indoor mixing ratios. Many studies have reported average indoor VOCs' mixing ratios in different environments, but their temporal variability has not been well documented. The main objective of this work was to simultaneously measure VOCs' indoor and outdoor mixing ratios with high time-resolution in order to assess the effect of sources inside and outside the building upon indoor mixing ratios of individual VOCs. Simultaneous hourly, continuous, and on-line measurements of C(2)-C(11) VOCs were performed inside and outside the School of Engineering of Bilbao (ETSI) building, located in the city center of Bilbao, an urban area in Northern Spain. The analysis of simultaneous data allowed the classification of VOCs based on their main sources. Some VOCs were mainly emitted by indoor sources (1-pentene, 2-methylpentane, n-hexane, methylcyclopentane, benzene, 1-heptene+2,2,4-trimethylbenzene, and tetrachloroethylene) or by outdoor sources (n-heptane, C(8) alkanes except trimethylpentanes and C(9) aromatics). Other VOCs, such as toluene, were emitted by both indoor and outdoor sources. The isoprene indoor pattern indicated that its main indoor source could be the air exhaled by people occupying the building. Some halocarbons, such as trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and carbon tetrachloride may be generated from the use inside the building of chlorine bleach containing products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / statistics & numerical data
  • Atmosphere / chemistry
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Spain
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Volatile Organic Compounds