Identification of Volatile Organic Compounds in Several Indoor Public Places in Korea

  • Seo, Sooyun (Graduate School of Public Health and Institute of Health and Environment, Seoul National University) ;
  • Lim, Soogil (Graduate School of Public Health and Institute of Health and Environment, Seoul National University) ;
  • Lee, Kiyoung (Graduate School of Public Health and Institute of Health and Environment, Seoul National University) ;
  • Seo, Young-Kyo (Department of Environmental Engineering, Yeungnam University) ;
  • Baek, Sung-Ok (Department of Environmental Engineering, Yeungnam University)
  • Received : 2014.04.17
  • Accepted : 2014.11.07
  • Published : 2014.12.31


A comprehensive profile of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in public spaces is needed for interpreting indoor air measurements. Seasonal differences in profiles are critical for epidemiological study and risk assessment. The purposes of this study were to establish profiles for individual VOCs in 50 indoor public places in Korea and to determine seasonal variations in their concentrations. Air samples were taken during working hours. Seventy-two of the 91 targeted VOCs were identified using multiple standards. Six VOCs detected in all summer and winter samples were toluene, acetone, m,p-xylenes, ethylbenzene, benzene, and styrene. In summer, methyl ethyl ketone and 1-butanol were also found in all samples. In both seasons, the dominant indoor VOCs were toluene, m,p-xylenes, ethylbenzene, acetone, and isopropyl alcohol. Other chemicals associated with gasoline emissions were dominant in summer. Limonene was dominant only in winter due to the consumption of tangerines. The nine VOCs with the highest concentrations comprised 64.8% and 49.6% of the TVOC in summer and winter, respectively. Comparing two types of adsorbent tube, a single adsorbent tube with Tenax-TA had similar detection performance as a double adsorbent tube with Tenax and Carbotrap.



  1. Andersson, K., Bakke, J., Bjorseth, O., Bornehag, C., Clausen, G., Hongslo, J., Kjellman, M., Kjaergaard, S., Levy, F., Molhave, L., Skerfving, S., Sundell, J. (1997) TVOC and health in non-industrial indoor environments - Report from a Nordic scientific consensus meeting at Langholmen in Stockholm, 1996. Indoor Air 7, 78-91.
  2. Baek, S., Kim, Y., Perry, R. (1997) Indoor air quality in homes, offices and restaurants in Korean urban areasindoor/outdoor relationships. Atmospheric Enviornment 31, 529-544.
  3. Baek, S., Moon, Y. (2004) Evaluation of Adsorbent sampling methods for volatile organic compounds in indoor and outdoor air. Analytical Science & Technology 17, 496-513.
  4. Brown, S.K., Sim, M.R., Abramson, M.J., Gray, C.N. (1994) Concentrations of volatile organic compounds in indoor air - a review. Indoor Air 4, 123-134.
  5. Chao, C., Chan, G. (2001) Quantification of indoor VOCs in twenty mechanically ventilated buildings in Hong Kong. Atmospheric Enviornment 35, 5895-5913.
  6. ECA-IAQ (1991) Effects of indoor air pollution on human health. Report No. 10, EUR 14086 EN, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
  7. Edwards, R., Jurvelin, J., Koistinen, K., Saarela, K., Jantunen, M. (2001) VOC source identification from personal and residential indoor, outdoor and workplace microenvironment samples in EXPOLIS-Helsinki, Finland. Atmospheric Enviornment 35, 4829-4841.
  8. Ekberg, L. (2003) Volatile organic compounds in office buildings. Atmospheric Enviornment 28, 3571-3575.
  9. Eklund, B., Burkes, S., Morris, P., Mosconi, L. (2008) Spatial and temporal variability in VOC levels within a commercial retail building. Indoor Air 18, 365-374.
  10. Etkin, D. (1996) Volatile Organic Compounds in Indoor Environments., Arlington, Mass., Cutter Information Corp.
  11. Hodgson, A., Rudd, A., Beal, D., Chandra, S. (2000) Volatile organic compound concentrations and emission rates in new manufactured and site-built houses. Indoor Air 10, 178-192.
  12. Kim, Y., Harrad, S., Harrison, R. (2001) Concentrations and sources of VOCs in urban domestic and public microenvironments. Environmental Science & Technology 35, 997-1004.
  13. Kuntasal, O., Karman, D., Wang, D., Tuncel, S., Tuncel, G. (2005) Determination of volatile organic compounds in different microenvironments by multibed adsorption and short-path thermal desorption followed by gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric analysis. Journal of Chromatography A 1099, 43-54.
  14. Molhave, L. (1991) Volatile organic compounds, indoor air quality and health. Indoor Air 1, 357-376.
  15. Molhave, L., Clausen, G., Berglund, B., Ceaurriz, J.D., Kettrup, A., Lindvall, T., Maroni, M., Pickering, A., Risse, U., Rothweiler, H., Seifert, B., Younes, M. (1997) Total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) in indoor air quality investigations. Indoor Air 7, 225-240.
  16. Nathanson, T. (1993) Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings: A Technical Guide., Vol. 2009, Health Canada.
  17. Nazaroff, W.W., Weschler, C.J. (2004) Cleaning products and air fresheners; exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmospheric Enviornment 38, 2841-2865.
  18. Oelert, H., Mayer-Gurr, W., Zajontz, J. (1974) Zur motorischen verbrennung von benzinkohlonwasserstoffen. Erdol Kohle-Erdgas-Petrochemie ver. Brennstoff-Chemie 27, 146-152.
  19. Salonen, H., Pasanen, A., Lappalainen, S., Riuttala, H., Tuomi, T., Pasanen, P., Back, B., Reijula, K. (2009) Airborne Concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds, Formaldehyde and Ammonia in Finnish Office Buildings with Suspected Indoor Air Problems. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 6, 200-209.
  20. Tang, J., Chan, C., Wang, X., Chan, L., Sheng, G., Fu, J. (2005) Volatile organic compounds in a multi-storey shopping mall in guangzhou, South China. Atmospheric Enviornment 39, 7374-7383.
  21. Wallace, L., Pellizzari, E., Wendel, C. (1991) Total volatile organic concentrations in 2700 personal, indoor, and outdoor samples collected in the USEPA TEAM studies. Indoor Air 1, 465-467.
  22. Wolkoff, P. (1995) Volatile organic compounds-sources, measurements, emissions, and the impact on indoor air quality. Indoor Air 3, 1-73.
  23. Wolkoff, P., Nielsen, G.D. (2001) Organic compounds in indoor air- their relevance for perceived indoor air quality. Atmospheric Enviornment 35, 4407-4417.
  24. WHO(World Health Organization). (1989). Indoor air quality: organic pollutants. Euro Reports and Studies No. 11 I. Copenhagen: World Health Organisation, Regional Office for Europe.

Cited by

  1. Investigation of indoor air quality in offices and residential homes in an urban area of Poland vol.13, pp.1, 2020,
  2. Assessment of Indoor Benzene and Its Alkyl Derivatives Concentrations in Offices Belonging to University of Technology (Poland) vol.12, pp.1, 2014,