Human chemical signature: Investigation on the influence of human presence and selected activities on concentrations of airborne constituents


Authored by  M Mitova, C Cluse, C Goujon-Ginglinger, S Kleinhans, M Rotach, M Tharin

Published in Environmental Pollution    

Abstract

There is growing evidence that the very presence of human beings in an enclosed environment can impact air quality by affecting the concentrations of certain airborne volatile organic compounds (VOC). This influence increases considerably when humans perform different activities, such as using toiletries, or simply eating and drinking. To understand the influence of these parameters on the concentrations of selected airborne constituents, a study was performed under simulated residential conditions in an environmentally-controlled exposure room. The human subjects either simply remained for a certain time in the exposure room, or performed pre-defined activities in the room (drinking wine, doing sport, using toiletries, and preparation of a meal containing melted cheese). The impact of each activity was assessed separately using our analytical platform and exposure room under controlled environmental conditions. The results showed that prolonged human presence leads to increased levels of isoprene, TVOCs, formaldehyde and, to a lesser extent, acetaldehyde. These outcomes were further supported by results of meta-analyses of data acquired during several internal studies performed over two years. Furthermore, it was seen that the indoor concentrations of several of the selected constituents rose when the recreational and daily living activities were performed. Indeed, an increase in acetaldehyde was observed for all tested conditions, and these higher indoor levels were especially notable during wine-drinking as well as cheese meal preparation. Formaldehyde increased during the sessions involving sport, using toiletries, and cheese meal preparation. Like acetaldehyde, acrolein, crotonaldehyde and particulate matter levels rose significantly during the cheese meal preparation session. In conclusion, prolonged human residence indoors and some recreational and daily living activities caused substantial emissions of several airborne pollutants under ventilation typical for residential environments.