Quantitative filter forensics for semivolatile organic compounds in social housing apartments

Residents from low-income social housing are vulnerable to adverse health effects from indoor air pollution. Particle-bound concentrations of eight phthalates and 12 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in indoor air were measured using quantitative filter forensics with portable air cleaners deployed for three one-week periods from 2015 to 2017. The sample included 143 apartments across seven multi-unit social housing buildings in Toronto, Canada, that went through energy retrofits in 2016. Eight phthalates and six PAHs were found in more than 50% of the apartments in either of the three sampling periods. Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and phenanthrene were the dominant phthalate and PAH, with median concentrations of 146, 143, and 130 ng/m3 and 1.51, 0.58, and 0.76 ng/m3 in the late spring of 2015, and after retrofits in late spring 2017 and winter of 2017, respectively. SVOC concentrations were generally lower after energy retrofits, with significant differences for phenanthrene, fluoranthene, and pyrene. Lower concentrations post-retrofit may be related to less overheating and less need for opening windows. Concentrations of phthalates and PAHs in this study were similar to or higher than those reported in the literature. Results suggest that the use of portable air filters is a promising method to assess concentrations of indoor particle-bound SVOCs.

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