Volatile organic compounds in fourteen U.S. retail stores



Retail buildings have a potential for both short-term (customer) and long-term (occupational) exposure to indoor pollutants. However, little is known about volatile organic compound (VOC) concentrations in the retail sector and influencing factors, such as ventilation, in-store activities, and store type. We measured VOC concentrations and ventilation rates in 14 retail stores in Texas and Pennsylvania. With the exception of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, VOCs were present in retail stores at concentrations well below health guidelines. Indoor formaldehyde concentrations ranged from 4.6 ppb to 67 ppb. The two mid-sized grocery stores in the sample had the highest levels of ethanol and acetaldehyde, with concentrations up to 2.6 ppm and 92 ppb, respectively, possibly due to the preparation of dough and baking activities. Indoor-to-outdoor concentration ratios indicated that indoor sources were the main contributors to indoor VOC concentrations for the majority of compounds. There was no strong correlation between ventilation and VOC concentrations across all stores. However, increasing the air exchange rates at two stores led to lower indoor VOC concentrations, suggesting that ventilation can be used to reduce concentrations for some specific stores.