Skip to main content

Assessment of Matrix Effects on Methyl Benzoate, a Potential Biomarker for Detection of Outgassed Semi-Volatiles from Mold in Indoor Building Materials


Methyl benzoate – as a biomarker for mold growth – was used as a specific target compound to indicate outgassed MVOC products from mold. Both real and surrogate samples were analyzed from a variety of matrices including: carpet, ceiling tiles, dried paint surfaces, wallboard and wallboard paper. Sampling parameters, including: desorption, extraction time, incubation temperature, pH, salt effects and spinning rate, were optimized. Results suggest that extraction and detection of methyl benzoate amongst other MVOCs can be accomplished cleanly by SPME-GC/MS methods. With detection limits (LOD = 1.5 ppb) and linearity (0.999) over a range of 100 ppm to 2 ppb, this work demonstrates that such a green technique can be contemplated for use in quick assessment or as part of an ongoing assessment strategy to detect mold growth in common indoor buildings and materials for both qualitative and quantitative determinations. Of importance, no matrix effects are observed under optimized extraction conditions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


  1. Balakrishnan VK, Terry KA, Toito J (2006) Determination of sulfonamide antibiotics in wastewater: a comparison of solid phase microextraction and solid phase extraction methods. J Chromatogr A 1131:1–10. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2006.07.011

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Cooley JD, Wong WC, Jumper CA, Straus DC (1998) Correlation between the prevalence of certain fungi and sick building syndrome. Occup Environ Med 55:579–584

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Fischer G, Dott W (2003) Relevance of airborne fungi and their secondary metabolites for environmental, occupational and indoor hygiene. Arch Microbiol 179:75–82

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Kuske M, Padilla M, Romain AC, Nicolas J, Rubio R, Marco S (2006) Detection of diverse mould species growing on building materials by gas sensor arrays and pattern recognition. Sens Actuators B 119:33–40

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Miller JD (1994) Mycotoxins. In: Rylander R, Jacobs R (eds) Organic dusts – exposure, effects, and prevention. Lewis, London, pp 87–92

    Google Scholar 

  6. Reeslev M, Miller M, Nielsen KF (2003) Quantifying mold biomass on gypsum board: comparison of ergosterol and beta-n-acetylhexosaminidase as mold biomass parameters. Appl Environ Microbiol 69:3996–3998. doi:10.1128/AEM.69.7.3996-3998.2003

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Sunesson A-L, Vaes WHJ, Nilsson C-A, Blomquist G, Andersson B, Carlson R (1995) Identification of volatile metabolites from five fungal species cultivated on two media. Appl Environ Microbiol 61:2911–2918

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Wady L, Larsson L (2005) Determination of microbial volatile organic compounds adsorbed on house dust particles and gypsum board using SPME/GC-MS. Indoor Air 15:27–32. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0668.2005.00293.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Wady L, Parkinson D-R, Pawliszyn J (2005) Methyl benzoate as a marker for the detection of mold in indoor building materials. J Sep Sci 28:2517–2525. doi:10.1002/jssc.200500010

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Wolkoff P, Wilkins CK, Clausenm PA, Nielsen GD (2006) Organic compounds in office environments-sensory irritation, odor, measurements and the role of reactive chemistry. Indoor Air 16:7–16. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0668.2005.00393.x

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Zygmunt B, Jastrzebska A, Namiesnik J (2001) Solid-phase microextraction – a convenient tool for the determination of organic pollutants in environmental matrices. Crit Rev Anal Chem 31:1–18. doi:10.1080/20014091076668

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors wish to thank the Principal’s Research Grant, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Center of Environmental Excellence and InTRD Grant # CEE 06-11 (Corner Brook, NL) and to Varian Technologies, (Montreal, PQ, Canada) for instrumental support.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Don-Roger Parkinson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Parkinson, DR., Churchill, T.J. & Rolls, W. Assessment of Matrix Effects on Methyl Benzoate, a Potential Biomarker for Detection of Outgassed Semi-Volatiles from Mold in Indoor Building Materials. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 81, 494 (2008).

Download citation


  • Biomarkers
  • Matrix effects
  • Methyl benzoate
  • Indoor molds