Potentially harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the Fort Collins, Colorado area

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Lauren Deanes, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI; and A. R. Evanoski-Cole, A. Clements, and J. L. Collett Jr.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have the potential to be very harmful to human health. For example, Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene (BTEX compounds) have been shown to contribute to higher rates of cancer. There are currently not any standards set for VOCs in non-industrial settings (EPA). Therefore, it is important to investigate the air that we breathe in outdoor settings.

The goal of this study is to compare VOC concentrations amongst different settings in the Fort Collins, Colorado area. Studying the levels of VOCs in Fort Collins area is necessary due to the city being home to Colorado State University, numerous natural sites, and several areas dedicated to the production of food, drink, and natural gas.

Using canisters, air samples were taken on two different days (July 1 and July 22) from five sources in the area (high traffic, low traffic, biogenic, oil and natural gas, and a brewery).

After collection, samples were analyzed using the EPA TO-15 method via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

Harmful VOCs to be investigated were separated into two different groups: BTEX compounds (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene) and compounds harmful to the Central Nervous System (Acetone, Benzyl Chloride, and Carbon Disulfide).

It was expected that the high traffic site would yield the most harmful VOCs.

After analysis, it was found that the high traffic site did indeed have the most of all seven harmful VOCs, with the exception of Benzyl Chloride (the brewery site registered more of this).

While these VOC concentrations in Fort Collins are not close to standards set by other countries, it is important to be aware of them. Future work would include more sampling to identify seasonal and annual trends and investigating how much exposure to these VOCs causes health problems, such as cancer, to arise.