Personal exposures to VOC in the upper end of the distribution-relationships to indoor, outdoor and workplace concentrations

R.D. Edwards (Corresponding Author), C. Schweizer, M. Jantunen, H.K. Lai, L. Bayer-Oglesby, K. Katsouyanni, M. Nieuwenhuijsen, Kristina Saarela, R. Sram, N. Kunzli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Evaluation of relationships between median residential indoor, indoor workplace and population exposures may obscure potential strategies for exposure reduction. Evaluation of participants with personal exposures above median levels in the EXPOLIS study in Athens, Helsinki, Oxford and Prague illustrated that these participants frequently showed a different relationship to indoor and workplace levels than that shown by the population median. Thus, prioritization of environments for control measures based on median exposures may exclude important areas where effectively focused control measures are possible, and may therefore have little impact on the highest and most harmful exposures. Further, personal exposures at the upper end of the distribution may exceed the US EPA inhalation reference concentration (Rfc), illustrated here using hexane, naphthalene and benzene. For example upper 90th percentile personal exposures to benzene in Athens and Prague were 64 and 27 μg m−3 with peak exposures of 217 and 38 μg m−3, respectively for non-ETS exposed participants relative to an Rfc of 30 μg m−3. Strategies to reduce exposures to individual compounds, therefore, may benefit from focus on the high end of the distribution to identify activities and behaviors that result in elevated exposures. Control strategies targeting activities that lead to exposures in the upper end of the distribution would reduce the variability associated with population median values by bringing the upper end of the exposure distribution closer to median values. Thus, compliance with health-based standards would be more protective of the higher exposed fraction of the population, in whom health effects would be more expected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2299-2307
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2005
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • volatile organic compounds
  • indoor sources
  • indoor air
  • outdoor air
  • workplace
  • exposures
  • microenvironment concentrations
  • hexane
  • benzene
  • naphthalene


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