Table 1. Results of studies of VOCs in schools

Reference Location(s) Study Site VOC Types Key Findings
[23] Minnesota 5 classrooms in each of 2 elementary schools VOCs This study measured concentrations of 15 VOCs in the schools, homes, and outdoor air of students from two schools in Minnesota. Personal air (breathing zone) concentrations were also measured. Concentrations in schools were typically similar to concentrations outdoors and less than both personal concentrations and concentrations in homes.
[24] France 401 classrooms from 108 primary schools from 6 cities Aldehydes Median concentrations of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein were approximately 27, 9, and 2 µg m-3, respectively. Higher indoor concentrations of formaldehyde were statistically significantly associated with increased rhinoconjunctivitis but higher formaldehyde was not associated with past year asthma or past year allergic asthma. Also, there were statistically significant increases in past year asthma and past year allergic asthma, but not rhinoconjunctivitis, in classrooms with higher indoor concentrations of acrolein. There was no indication of an association of concentrations of acetaldehyde in classrooms with asthma or rhinoconjunctivitis. The analyses controlled for personal factors, but did not appear to control for concentrations of other measured pollutants.
[32] California 40 daycare facilities SVOCs Flame retardant levels in early child education (daycare) centers in California sometimes exceeded no significant risk levels for carcinogens or reference levels for non-carcinogen effects.
[31] United States NA

VOCs

Aldehydes

This paper used data on indoor VOC and particle concentrations and equations indicating the potency of VOCs and particles to cause health effects to estimate health risks. Risks of VOCs and particles in schools were smaller that risks in homes. Particles posed higher risks than VOCs and, among VOCs, formaldehyde posed the largest health risk.
[15] NA NA

VOCs

TVOC

In this broad literature review, via analysis of data, the author showed that indoor TVOC concentrations increase with increasing indoor CO2 concentrations, which indicate decreased outdoor air ventilation rates. The author also concluded that TVOC concentrations were strongly related to dissatisfaction with IAQ, although only one study was cited supporting this conclusion.
[16] Italy 8 naturally ventilated schools VOCs This studied measured VOCs in eight naturally ventilated schools in Italy, and also measured VOCs outdoors. Some classrooms had very low VOC levels, other classrooms had significant levels. Concentrations of terpenes were high in all classrooms. Benzene posed the highest cancer risk, indoor concentrations of benzene were similar to or higher than outdoor concentrations. 1,4 dichlorobenzene was elevated in 1 classroom.
[33] California 40 early child education facilities SVOCs This study measured concentrations of several phthalates in air and dust. The study was motivated by possible risks of reproductive toxicity and cancer. 82% to 89% of facilities had dibutyl phthalate (DBT) levels above reproductive health benchmarks and 8% to 11% of children less than age 2 had di (2-ethylhexyl) (DEHP) phthalate concentrations above cancer benchmarks.
[17] Michigan 64 elementary and middle school classrooms from 9 schools VOCs The most prevalent VOCs were benzene, ethylbenzene, a-pinene, and limonene. Indoor VOC concentrations generally exceeded outdoor concentrations, but for most VOCs concentrations were characterized as low. Concentrations varied widely within and among schools. VOC sources included art rooms, science rooms, and indoor swimming pools.
[30] Austria 9 elementary schools and 436 children SVOCs This study measured concentrations of phthalates and phosphororganic compounds (used as flame retardants, plasticizers, and floor sealers) in samples of floor dust and in samples of particles collected from air. Concentrations of airborne VOCs were also measured and student's cognitive performance was measured using the reasoning component of an intelligence test. A decrease in cognitive performance of students was associated with higher concentrations of tris (2-chlorethylphosphase) in floor dust and in airborne particles, and the associations were statistically significant. Tris is a common flame retardant and is also used as a plasticizer.
[27] Sweden 23 classrooms in 8 primary schools

VOCs

Aldehydes

This cross sectional study found higher concentrations of texanol, a common component of paints, associated with increased nocturnal breathlessness. Higher concentrations of TXIB, a common plasticizer in PVC floor coverings, were associated with increases in nocturnal and daytime breathlessness, doctor diagnosed asthma, and current asthma. The associations were statistically significant. Formaldehyde concentrations were not associated with respiratory symptoms. The analysis controlled for age and gender.
[25] China 30 classrooms from 10 naturally ventilated junior high schools Aldehydes Indoor formaldehyde concentrations averaged 9.4 µg m-3 with a standard deviation of 6.9 µg m-3. There were non-statistically-significant increases in airway symptoms and asthma outcomes in classrooms with higher formaldehyde concentrations. The analyses controlled for personal factors, the observed dampness in one school, and temperature, humidity, and concentrations of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone.
[18] Australia One naturally-ventilated classroom in each of 25 primary schools

VOCs

Aldehydes

TVOC

This survey found that indoor outdoor ratios for VOCs were generally greater than unity in 19 of 25 schools, 41% of indoor VOCs were attributable to cleaning products, 23% were attributable to air fresheners, and 21% were attributable to arts and crafts materials. Emissions from building materials were a minor source.
[28] Portugal 76 classrooms in 11 elementary and secondary schools TVOC This survey in Portugal inspected 76 classrooms in 11 elementary and secondary schools, measured selected pollutants and used questionnaires to study health of 177 teachers. On average, indoor TVOC concentrations were a factor of 2.4 higher than outdoor concentrations. There were statistically significant increases in central nervous system symptoms, upper respiratory, symptoms and mucosal symptoms with increased TVOC concentrations. It appears that there was no control for potential confounders; thus, higher TVOC levels could have served as a proxy for some other exposure or factor causally related to increased symptoms.
[34] Portugal 73 classrooms in 20 primary schools

VOCs

Aldehydes

Indoor concentrations of most VOCs were low, below 5 mg m-3 and below guidelines. Formaldehyde had a mean concentration of 19.8 mg m-3 with a standard deviation of 10.9 mg m-3. Limonene concentrations were highest with a mean of 38.1, standard deviation of 44.5, and median of 23.1 mg m-3 Indoor-outdoor ratios were greater than 6 for limonene, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde. The two classrooms with graphic art activities had the highest concentrations of toluene and naphthalene.
[35] Portugal 52 naturally ventilated nursery and kindergarten classrooms in 9 facilities

Aldehydes

TVOC

Formaldehyde concentrations were below the 17 mg m-3 detection limit. Nursery school TVOC concentrations averaged 152 and 106 mg m-3 in spring and winter. Kindergarten TVOC concentrations averaged 104 and 93 mg m-3 in spring and winter.
[29] Sweden 129 staff in 6 primary schools

VOCs

Aldehydes

TVOC

Formaldehyde concentrations were below the 10 mg m-3 detection limit. TVOC concentrations ranged from 70 to 180 mg m-3. The risk of having at least one chronic sick building syndrome symptom was statistically significantly increased with higher TVOC concentrations. The risks of airway, general, and eye symptoms (but not dermal symptoms) were statistically significantly increased with higher TVOC concentrations. VOC concentrations were not significantly associated with the risks of new SBS symptoms. The extent to which the analyses models controlled for potential confounding factors is unclear.
[20] Portugal 2 naturally-ventilated classrooms in each of 14 elementary schools

VOCs

Aldehydes

TVOC

The sum of indoor concentrations of measured VOCs ranged widely from 37 to 317 mg m-3. Formaldehyde concentrations ranged from 1 to 42 mg m-3. In general, indoor VOC concentrations far exceeded outdoor concentrations.
[19] Portugal 2 schools

VOCs

TVOC

This study compared measured IAQ parameters from a city center school and a suburban school. VOC levels were generally higher indoors than outdoors with particularly high levels of dichloromethane in both schools. Dichloromethane is common in aerosol air fresheners, deodorants, furniture polish, and cleaning compounds. The estimated cancer risk of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons was described as negligible.
[22] California 20 classrooms, grade kindergarten through 12

VOCs

Aldehydes

This paper reports on VOC measurements from 13 portable and seven traditional classrooms. During occupancy, formaldehyde averaged 20 mg m-3 overall, and 31 mg m-3 in portable classrooms. For most other VOCs, mean concentrations were less than 1 to 5 mg m-3. Average VOC concentrations were higher for a-Pinene and d-Limonene. Cleaning products are a common source for these two compounds.
[26] Sweden 28 classrooms from 11 secondary schools

VOCs

Aldehydes

Formaldehyde and 14 other VOCs were measured in each classroom and asthma symptoms and demographic characteristics of 627 students was assessed with a questionnaire. After control for personal factors, current asthma was statistically significantly associated with higher formaldehyde and higher total VOC concentrations at school.
[36] Turkey 2 classrooms in each of 3 elementary schools

VOCs

Aldehydes

This small study measured VOCs in one classroom, one kindergarten room, and outdoors at each school and used the concentration data to estimate relative potential health risks. Formaldehyde posed the highest health risks, followed by naphthalene, benzene, and toluene.
[37] Greece 15 schools, one classroom per school, grade levels were not reported

Aldehydes

TVOC

This studied measured a variety of IAQ parameters, including formaldehyde and TVOC concentrations. Formaldehyde concentrations ranged from 23 to 77 mg m-3, which is below the recommended maximum of 100 mg m-3 by the World Health Organization, but well above limits recommended by some other organizations. TVOC concentrations ranged from 1300 to 6400 mg m-3, which is higher than reported in most other studies.
[21] Korea One classroom, one laboratory, and one computer classroom in each of 55 schools

Aldehydes

TVOC

The average measured TVOC concentration was 374 mg m-3 in classrooms, 176 mg m-3 in laboratories, and 186 mg m-3 in computer rooms. The average measured formaldehyde concentration was 100 ppb in classrooms, 180 ppb in laboratories, and 90 ppb in computer rooms. Formaldehyde concentrations were higher in newer classrooms and averaged 160 ppb in classrooms with an age less than one year.

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