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Exposure and risk assessment of volatile organic compounds and airborne phthalates in Singapore's Child Care Centers

Jia, Shenglan, Sankaran, Gayatri, Wang, Bei, Shang, Hongtao, Tan, Sze Tat, Yap, Hooi Ming, Shen, Joanna, Gutiérrez, Ramona Alikiiteaga, Fang, Wenjuan, Liu, Min, Chang, Victor Wei-Chung, Ng, Lee Ching, Fang, Mingliang
Chemosphere 2019 v.224 pp. 85-92
Monte Carlo method, air, air conditioning, benzene, child care centers, children, environmental exposure, environmental hazards, ethylbenzene, guidelines, hazard characterization, infants, information systems, naphthalene, neoplasms, normal values, phthalates, risk, toluene, tropics, uncertainty, volatile organic compounds, xylene, Singapore
Infants and children under 6 years old spend most of daily time in Child Care Centers (CCCs), especially in the tropical regions like Singapore. Environmental exposure and associated risk during this early critical developmental stage is of great public concern. In this study, seven representative volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and five typical phthalates were analyzed in the indoor and outdoor air samples collected from 32 Singapore CCCs. The median of total VOC and phthalate concentration in indoor air was 19.03 and 5.41 μg m−3; respectively. For both indoors and outdoors environment, benzene, toluene and xylene were the dominant VOC contributors (more than 68%). For indoor air phthalates, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate and di-butyl phthalate (DBP) accounts for 60–76%. The level of both VOCs and phthalates in indoor environment was significantly higher than that in outdoor, with an average indoor/outdoor ratio of 1.24 and 1.45; respectively. A strong correlation (r > 0.50, p < 0.05) was observed between indoor and outdoor air compounds. VOC and phthalate levels have no significant difference between CCCs with split-unit and centrally ventilated air conditioners. Monte Carlo simulation was used to estimate exposure uncertainty and variability for the risk assessment. Overall, the concentrations of VOC were below the healthy reference values from either EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) or Singapore guideline. However, similar to other countries’ report, benzene, DBP, ethylbenzene and naphthalene were at levels that could exceed the stringent standards such as Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) cancer and reproductive health-based benchmarks.