Measurement of volatile organic compounds in human blood

Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Oct;104 Suppl 5(Suppl 5):871-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.96104s5871.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are an important public health problem throughout the developed world. Many important questions remain to be addressed in assessing exposure to these compounds. Because they are ubiquitous and highly volatile, special techniques must be applied in the analytical determination of VOCs. The analytical methodology chosen to measure toxicants in biological materials must be well validated and carefully carried out; poor quality assurance can lead to invalid results that can have a direct bearing on treating exposed persons. The pharmacokinetics of VOCs show that most of the internal dose of these compounds is quickly eliminated, but there is a fraction that is only slowly removed, and these compounds may bioaccumulate. VOCs are found in the general population at the high parts-per-trillion range, but some people with much higher levels have apparently been exposed to VOC sources away from the workplace. Smoking is the most significant confounder to internal dose levels of VOCs and must be considered when evaluating suspected cases of exposure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzene / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Humans
  • Reference Values
  • Smoking / blood
  • Toluene / blood
  • Volatilization


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Toluene
  • Benzene