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Influence of relative humidity on VOC concentrations in indoor air


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may be emitted from surfaces indoors leading to compromised air quality. This study scrutinized the influence of relative humidity (RH) on VOC concentrations in a building that had been subjected to water damage. While air samplings in a damp room at low RH (21–22 %) only revealed minor amounts of 2-ethylhexanol (3 μg/m3) and 2,2,4-trimethyl-1,3-pentanediol diisobutyrate (TXIB, 8 μg/m3), measurements performed after a rapid increase of RH (to 58–75 %) revealed an increase in VOC concentrations which was 3-fold for 2-ethylhexanol and 2-fold for TXIB. Similar VOC emission patterns were found in laboratory analyses of moisture-affected and laboratory-contaminated building materials. This study demonstrates the importance of monitoring RH when sampling indoor air for VOCs in order to avoid misleading conclusions from the analytical results.

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This research was supported by the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS project 242-2008-343). We would like to thank Jörgen Grantén for assistance in some air measurements and access to a study building.

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Correspondence to Lennart Larsson.

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Responsible editor: Constantini Samara

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Markowicz, P., Larsson, L. Influence of relative humidity on VOC concentrations in indoor air. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 5772–5779 (2015).

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  • Indoor air
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Relative humidity
  • Building environment
  • Sink effect