Estimating person-to-person variability in VOC emissions from personal care products used during showering

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Abstract An increasing fraction of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions come from the domestic use of solvents, contained within myriad commonplace consumer products. Emission rates are often poorly characterized and depend significantly on individual behavior and specific product formulation and usage. Time-concentration profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) arising from the use of a representative selection of personal care products (PCPs) during showering are generated, and person-to-person variability in emissions calculated. A panel of 18 participants used a standardized set of products, dosages, and application times during showering in a controlled indoor bathroom setting. Proton transfer mass spectrometry was used to measure the in-room VOC evolution of limonene (representing the sum of monoterpenes), benzyl alcohol, and ethanol. The release of VOCs had reproducible patterns between users, but noticeable variations in absolute peak concentrations, despite identical amounts of material being used. The amounts of VOC emitted to air for one showering activity were as follows: limonene (1.77 mg ± 42, benzyl alcohol (1.07 mg ± 41, and ethanol (0.33 mg ± 78. Real-world emissions to air were between 1.3 and 11 times lower than bottom-up estimates based on dynamic headspace measurements of product emissions rates, likely a result of PCPs being washed away before VOC evaporation could occur.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalIndoor air
Early online date22 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors


  • fragrance
  • indoor air quality
  • mass spectrometry
  • personal care products
  • PTR-MS
  • VOCs

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