A Pilot Study to Quantify Volatile Organic Compounds and Their Sources Inside and Outside Homes in Urban India in Summer and Winter during Normal Daily Activities


Indian cities have some of the poorest air quality globally but volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—many of which adversely affect health—and their indoor sources remain understudied in India. In this pilot study we quantified hundreds of VOCs inside and outside 26 homes in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, Gujarat, in May 2019 and in January 2020. We sampled in the morning and afternoon/evening to capture temporal variability. Total indoor VOCs were measured at higher concentrations in winter (327.0 ± 224.2 µgm−3) than summer (150.1 ± 121.0 µgm−3) and exceeded those measured outdoors. Using variable reduction techniques, we identified potential sources of compounds (cooking, plastics [with an emphasis on plasticizers], consumer products, siloxanes [as used in the production of consumer products], vehicles). Contributions differed by season and between homes. In May, when temperatures were high, plastics contributed substantially to indoor pollution (mean of 42% contribution to total VOCs) as compared to in January (mean of 4%). Indoor cooking and consumer products contributed on average 29% and 10% to all VOCs indoors in January and 16% and 4% in May. Siloxane sources contributed <4% to any home during either season. Cooking contributed substantially to outdoor VOCs (on average 18% in January and 11% in May) and vehicle-related sources accounted for up to 84% of VOCs in some samples. Overall, results indicate a strong seasonal dependence of indoor VOC concentrations and sources, underscoring the need to better understand factors driving health-harming pollutants inside homes to facilitate exposure reductions.