Volatile organic compounds were collected and analyzed from a variety of indoor and outdoor air samples to test whether human-derived compounds can be readily detected in the air and if they can be associated with human occupancy or presence. Compounds were captured with thermal desorption tubes and then analyzed by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry. Isoprene, a major volatile organic compound in exhaled breath, was shown to be the best indicator of human presence. Acetone, another major breath-borne compound, was higher in unoccupied or minimally occupied areas than in human-occupied areas, indicating that its majority may be derived from exogenous sources. The association of endogenous skin-derived compounds with human occupancy was not significant. In contrast, numerous compounds that are found in foods and consumer products were detected at elevated levels in the occupied areas. Our results revealed that isoprene and many exogenous volatile organic compounds consumed by humans are emitted at levels sufficient for detection in the air, which may be indicative of human presence.
Acetone/analysis Air Breath Tests/methods* Butadienes/analysis* Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry Hemiterpenes/analysis* Humans Pentanes/analysis* Reproducibility of Results Respiration Skin/metabolism Volatile Organic Compounds/analysis*