Date

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Science

Department

Environmental Engineering

First Adviser

Fox, John T.

Abstract

While preexisting research regarding cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide poisoning, dust/allergens and other air pollutants exits, studying volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination indoors is a relatively recent endeavor. While certain VOCs are considered carcinogens with known detrimental health effects, new research involves investigating VOC sources, contaminant concentration in ambient indoor air and possible treatment technologies. This paper will not only detail different types of air pollutants, their sources, and health effects, but also delve deeper into VOC contamination in health related facilities (mainly hospitals) and address possible treatment methods such as photocatalytic (PCO) oxidation. Particulate matter, VOCs, biological contaminants, and heavy metals all represent contaminants of concern in our indoor environments and each of these contaminants have their own health-related impacts. Understanding the sources and effects of these pollutants in health-facilities is crucial to understanding how to prevent exposure and begin treating these contaminants. Health-care facilities in general not only have high levels of many of these contaminants to begin with, but also have high standards of air quality for certain medical procedures and operating rooms. As such, high quality filters, advanced ventilation systems and technical practices help to reduce the risk of contaminant exposure as well as infection. Factors such as temperature, humidity and time of year can additionally affect the indoor environment as indoor air quality is often a product of the outdoor environment and external factors. Even with specific precautions, patients are still at risk of exposure to multiple air pollutants including microorganisms, particulate matter and VOCs. Even though published studies have cited VOCs levels below exposure limits, these studies do not include cumulative impacts, chronic effects or short, high-level exposure. Future studies are necessary to determine these cumulative and chronic impacts and also to determine the true threat that these chemical pose to human health. While treatment technologies such as photocatalytic oxidation are promising and have the potential to remove harmful contaminants, there are still multiple limitations to their feasibility and scaling in environments such as hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

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