Secondary Product Creation Potential (SPCP): a metric for assessing the potential impact of indoor air pollution on human health

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Indoor air is subject to emissions of chemicals from numerous sources. Many of these emissions contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which react to form a wide range of secondary products, some with adverse health effects. However, at present we lack a robust, standardised approach to rank the potential for different VOC to cause harm, which prevents effective action to improve indoor air quality and reduce impacts on human health. This paper uses a detailed chemical model to quantify the impact of 63 VOCs on indoor air quality. We define a novel method for ranking the VOCs in terms of harmful product formation through a new metric, the Secondary Product Creation Potential (SPCP). We established SPCPs for a range of ventilation rates, different proportions of transmitted outdoor light, as well as for varying outdoor concentrations of ozone and nitrogen oxides. The species having the largest SPCPs are the alkenes, terpenes and aromatic VOCs. Trans-2-butene has the largest individual SPCP owing to the ratio of its rate coefficient for reaction with the hydroxy radical relative to ozone. Increasing the proportion of outdoor transmitted light increased most SPCPs markedly. This is because oxidant levels increased under these conditions and promoted more chemical processing, suggesting that there may be more harmful products closer to a window than further from the attenuated outdoor light. The SPCP is the first metric for assessing the impact of different VOCs on human health and will be an essential tool for guiding the composition of products commonly used indoors.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalEnvironmental Sciences: Processes and Impacts
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2019

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© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2019

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