Evaluation and characterization of volatile air toxics indoors in a heavy polluted city of northwestern China in wintertime

Yu Huang, Ting Su, Liqin Wang, Nan Wang, Yonggang Xue, Wanting Dai, Shun Cheng Lee, Junji Cao, Steven Sai Hang Ho

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbonyls were evaluated in typical dwellings in Xi'an in northwestern China in wintertime. High indoor concentrations were observed for formaldehyde, acetone, naphthalene, methylene chloride and acetaldehyde, associated with characteristic pollution sources. In comparison, many of the target VOCs were higher in Chinese dwellings than those in other countries, suggesting the significances of indoor pollutions in China. Source apportionment with receptor model shows that furniture and building materials (44.5%), paints and adhesives (11.9%), household products (17.3%), smoking (14.5%), and cooking (9.8%) are the major contributors to the indoor VOCs and carbonyls. The health risk assessment shows that the cancer risks for formaldehyde (5.73 × 10 −5 ), 1,3-butadiene (2.07 × 10 −5 ) and 1,2-dichloroethane (1.44 × 10 −5 ) were much higher than the acceptable level of 1 × 10 −6 recommended by International Register for Certified Auditors (IRCA). The hazard quotient (HQ) of target VOCs were far less than the threshold (HQ = 1). Moreover, the practical efficiency of household air purifier in removal of the VOCs and carbonyls was examined first time in dwellings in northern China. The results prove that most of the indoor organic pollutants and their cancer risk to humans can be efficiently reduced, particularly for formaldehyde and 1,3-butadiene. The findings of the study offer useful preliminary and updated information on current indoor air toxics levels, dominant pollution sources and their potential health risks to residents in northwest China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-480
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2019


  • Carbonyls
  • Health risk
  • Indoor air purifier
  • Indoor air quality
  • Residence
  • Volatile air toxics (VOCs)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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