Surface reservoirs dominate dynamic gas-surface partitioning of many indoor air constituents

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Science Advances  19 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 8, eaay8973
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay8973


Human health is affected by indoor air quality. One distinctive aspect of the indoor environment is its very large surface area that acts as a poorly characterized sink and source of gas-phase chemicals. In this work, air-surface interactions of 19 common indoor air contaminants with diverse properties and sources were monitored in a house using fast-response, on-line mass spectrometric and spectroscopic methods. Enhanced-ventilation experiments demonstrate that most of the contaminants reside in the surface reservoirs and not, as expected, in the gas phase. They participate in rapid air-surface partitioning that is much faster than air exchange. Phase distribution calculations are consistent with the observations when assuming simultaneous equilibria between air and large weakly polar and polar absorptive surface reservoirs, with acid-base dissociation in the polar reservoir. Chemical exposure assessments must account for the finding that contaminants that are fully volatile under outdoor air conditions instead behave as semivolatile compounds indoors.

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