Predicted Concentrations in New Relocatable Classrooms of Volatile Organic Compounds Emitted from Standard and Alternate Interior Finish Materials

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Relocatable classrooms (RCs) are widely employed by California school districts to satisfy rapidly expanding space requirements due to population growth and class size reduction policies. There is public concern regarding indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in schools, particularly in RCs, but very little data to support or dispel these concerns. Several studies are investigating various aspects of IEQ in California schools. This laboratory-based study focused on evaluating the emissions of toxic and/or odorous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, from materials used to finish the interiors of new RCs. Furthermore, the study implemented a procedure for VOC source reduction by testing and selecting lower-emitting materials as substitutes for standard materials. In total, 17 standard and alternate floor coverings, wall panels and ceiling panels were quantitatively tested for emissions of VOCs using smallscale environmental chambers.

Working with the largest northern California manufacturer of conventional RCs and two school districts, specifications were developed for four new RCs to be produced in early summer 2001. Two of these will be predominantly finished with standard materials. Alternate carpet systems, an alternate wall panel covering and an alternate ceiling panel were selected for the two other RCs based on the results of the laboratory study and considerations of cost and anticipated performance and maintenance. Particular emphasis was placed on reducing the concentrations of VOCs on California agency lists of toxic compounds. Indoor concentrations of toxic and odorous VOCs were estimated for the four classrooms by mass balance using the measured VOC emission factors, exposed surface areas of the materials in the RCs, and three ventilation rate scenarios. Results indicate that reductions in the concentrations of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde phenol, di(ethylene glycol) butyl ether, vinyl acetate, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene and 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinone should be achieved as the result of the source reduction procedure.

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