Evaluating Indoor Air Chemical Diversity, Indoor-to-Outdoor Emissions, and Surface Reservoirs Using High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry

WashU affiliated authors: Claire F. Fortenberry, Michael J. Walker, Brent J. Williams (Dept. of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering)

Abstract: Detailed offline speciation of gas- and particle-phase organic compounds was conducted using gas/liquid chromatography with traditional and high-resolution mass spectrometers in a hybrid targeted/nontargeted analysis. Observations were focused on an unoccupied home and were compared to two other indoor sites. Observed gas-phase organic compounds span the volatile to semivolatile range, while functionalized organic aerosols extend from intermediate volatility to ultra-low volatility, including a mix of oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur-containing species. Total gas-phase abundances of hydrocarbon and oxygenated gas-phase complex mixtures were elevated indoors and strongly correlated in the unoccupied home. While gas-phase concentrations of individual compounds generally decreased slightly with greater ventilation, their elevated ratios relative to controlled emissions of tracer species suggest that the dilution of gas-phase concentrations increases off-gassing from surfaces and other indoor reservoirs, with volatility-dependent responses to dynamically changing environmental factors. Indoor–outdoor emissions of gas-phase intermediate-volatility/semivolatile organic hydrocarbons from the unoccupied home averaged 6–11 mg h–1, doubling with ventilation. While the largest single-compound emissions observed were furfural (61–275 mg h–1) and acetic acid, observations spanned a wide range of individual volatile chemical products (e.g., terpenoids, glycol ethers, phthalates, other oxygenates), highlighting the abundance of long-lived reservoirs resulting from prior indoor use or materials, and their gradual transport outdoors.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c01337