Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

William J. Doucette


William J. Doucette


R. Ryan Dupont


Erik Dettenmaier


Indoor air concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including many with documented adverse health effects, vary widely but are generally higher than found outdoors. Volatile organic compounds can enter indoor environments via internal (e.g. paints, paint strippers, fuels, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, adhesives) and external sources (e.g. vapor intrusion (VI) from contaminated soil and/or groundwater and ambient air from automobiles and industrial facilities). Since many consumer products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are also the focus of soil and groundwater cleanup projects, emissions of these VOCs can lead to false source identifications during VI investigations. Laboratory-measured emissions of VOCs from several consumer products were used with a standard box model to predict indoor air concentrations. The predicted concentrations were compared to measured values generated by introducing the same consumer products into an actual residence. The screening level agreement between measured and estimated air concentrations suggests that a standard box model can be used with laboratory measured emission rates to show if an emission source can cause a potential health risk or lead to false assumption during VI investigations. The use of plant leaves as a simple, cost-effective and sustainable approach to sampling indoor air concentrations of VOCs was also investigated in three studies: 1) a headspace approach; 2) a flow-through glass and stainless steel plant growth chamber, and 3) a house-scale study where plant leaf and air concentrations of VOC were simultaneously measured. Similar relationships between the leaf and air concentrations observed in the three studies suggest that plant leaf concentrations can be used as a surrogate for indoor air concentrations of VOCs.