• forensic science;
  • automotive;
  • polyurethane foam;
  • volatile organic compounds;
  • solid-phase microextraction;
  • gas chromatography–mass spectrometry;
  • contamination


Solid-phase microextraction (SPME) coupled with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) was used in this study to identify volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from heated automotive polyurethane (PU) foam collected from 17 different automobiles located in Yuen Long, HK SAR. The samples (0.05 g each) underwent incubation inside 5-mL glass vials for 30 min, and the VOCs were then collected from the headspace with a polydimethylsiloxane fiber by insertion for 30 min. The VOCs were then qualitatively identified by GC-MS analysis and were mostly found to be saturated hydrocarbons. However, differences were noted from car to car in the retention time range of 10–23 min. The VOCs collected during this segment of retention time from the PU foams ranged from antioxidants, food preservatives, pesticides, plasticizers, flame retardants to antiseptic agents. The results obtained from this study therefore highlight the usefulness of SPME/GC-MS as a form of chemical characterization in the analysis of PU foams in forensic casework.