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The persistence of smoke VOCs indoors: partitioning, surface cleaning, and air cleaning in a smoke-contaminated house



Jienan Li, Michael F. Link, Shubhrangshu Pandit, Marc Webb, Cholaphan Deeleepojananan, Kathryn Mayer, Lauren Garofalo, Katelyn Rediger, Dustin Poppendieck, Stephen Zimmerman, Marina Vance, Vicki Grassian, Glenn Morrison, Barbara Turpin, Delphine Farmer


Wildfires are increasing in frequency, raising concerns that smoke can permeate indoor environments and expose people to chemical air contaminants. To study smoke transformations in indoor environments and evaluate mitigation strategies, we added smoke to a test house. Many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) persisted days following the smoke injection, providing a longer-term exposure pathway for humans. Two timescales control smoke VOC partitioning: a faster one (1.0 - 5.2 h) that describes the time to reach equilibrium between adsorption and desorption processes, and a slower one (4.8 – 21.2 h) that describes the time for indoor ventilation to overtake adsorption-desorption equilibria in controlling the air concentration. These rates imply that vapor pressure controls partitioning behavior, and that house ventilation plays a minor role in removing smoke VOCs. However, surface cleaning activities (vacuuming, mopping, dusting) physically removed surface reservoirs and thus reduced indoor smoke VOC concentrations more effectively than portable air cleaners, and more persistently than window-opening.
Science Advances


wildfire smoke, volatile organic compounds, surface partitioning, indoor air quality


Li, J. , Link, M. , Pandit, S. , Webb, M. , Deeleepojananan, C. , Mayer, K. , Garofalo, L. , Rediger, K. , Poppendieck, D. , Zimmerman, S. , Vance, M. , Grassian, V. , Morrison, G. , Turpin, B. and Farmer, D. (2023), The persistence of smoke VOCs indoors: partitioning, surface cleaning, and air cleaning in a smoke-contaminated house, Science Advances, [online],, (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created October 13, 2023, Updated March 8, 2024