• Journal Article

Volatile organic compound testing of a population living near a hazardous waste site


Hamar, G. B., McGeehin, M., Phifer, B. L., & Ashley, D. L. (1996). Volatile organic compound testing of a population living near a hazardous waste site. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology, 6(2), 247-255.


Accurate measures of individual exposure are critical in reducing misclassification and establishing scientifically valid associations between health outcomes and exposures to environmental contaminants. As part of a community health study, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conducted exposure testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the blood of people residing near an industrial complex. The purposes of the study were to assess recent exposures to VOCs in this community and to assess the utility of conducting blood VOC testing on populations near hazardous waste sites. One hundred blood specimens from the target area and 106 blood specimens from the control area were collected for analysis. The blood VOC levels in the target-area participants were compared to those in the control area and to a national reference population. Of the 31 separate VOCs for which testing was done, only acetone was statistically significantly (p +ADw- 0.05) higher in target-area participants (1,636 parts per billion +AFs-ppb+AF0-) than in control-area participants (1,353 ppb). 1,1,1-Trichloroethane was found at higher geometric mean levels in the control group (0.169 ppb) than in the target group (0.115 ppb) (p +AD0- 0.01). Median blood levels of 2-butanone and 1,4-dichlorobenzene were slightly higher in both target- and control-area groups than in the national reference population, but neither area was statistically significantly higher than the national reference population for any contaminant measured. Overall, there appeared to be no association between residing in the target area and elevated blood VOC levels. Based on the results of this study, blood VOC testing should be limited to populations living near sites where environmental testing has shown recent, elevated VOC exposure, or where unusual circumstances of illness may be attributed to VOC exposure