• Building materials;
  • Chamber study;
  • Controlled exposure;
  • Decipol evaluation;
  • Emission measurements;
  • Formaldehyde;
  • Headspace analysis;
  • Indoor air quality;
  • Mouse bioassay;
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC);
  • Tear film quality;
  • Total volatile organic compounds (TVOC)


Monitoring of human reactions to the emission of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from four commonly used building materials was carried out. The building materials were: a painted gypsum board, a rubber floor, a nylon carpet, and a particle board with an acid-curing paint. The exposures were performed in climate chambers. The air quality was quantified on the decipol scale by a trained panel, measurements of formaldehyde and VOC being performed simultaneously. The irritating potency of the materials was measured by a mouse bioassay. The VOC measurements showed several malodorants and irritants. Some abundant VOC identified in the head-space analyses were absent in the climate chamber air. The rubber floor and the nylon carpet exhibited a marked increase in decipols compatible with a number of odorous VOC identified in the air. A high formaldehyde concentration (minimum 743μg/m3) was measured for the particle board coated with an acid-curing paint. This was not reflected by a corresponding relatively high decipol value but a long-lasting irritating potency was observed in the mouse bioassay. TVOC sampled on Tenax and expressed in mass per volume as well as in molar concentration, and decipol evaluation both have limitations and should be used with caution as indicators of (perceived) indoor air quality. Eye irritation expressed by means of the eye index reflecting the tear film quality index (comprised of break-up time, foam formation, thickness of the precorneal lipid layer of the tear film, and epithelial damage) was found to be insensitive to formaldehyde and a VOC mixture but sensitive to TVOC concentrations of 1–2 mg/m3. Lipophilic VOC may be the cause of reduced tear film quality by destabilization of the lipid multilayer of the tear film.