Partitioning of phthalates among the gas phase, airborne particles and settled dust in indoor environments

Charles J. Weschler, Tunga Salthammer, Hermann Fromme

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A critical evaluation of human exposure to phthalate esters in indoor environments requires the determination of their distribution among the gas phase, airborne particles and settled dust. If sorption from the gas phase is the dominant mechanism whereby a given phthalate is associated with both airborne particles and settled dust, there should be a predictable relationship between its particle and dust concentrations. The present paper tests this for six phthalate esters (DMP, DEP, DnBP, DiBP, BBzP and DEHP) that have been measured in both the air and the settled dust of 30 Berlin apartments. The particle concentration, C-particle, of a given phthalate was calculated from its total airborne concentration and the concentration of airborne particles (PM4). This required knowledge of the particle-gas partition coefficient, K., which was estimated from either the saturation vapor pressure (p(s)) or the octanol/air partition coefficient (K-OA). For each phthalate in each apartment, the ratio of its particle concentration to its dust concentration (C-particle/C-Dust) was calculated, The median values of this ratio were within an order of magnitude of one another for five of the phthalate esters despite the fact that their vapor pressures span four orders of magnitude. This indicates that measurements of phthalate ester concentrations in settled dust can provide in estimate of their concentration in airborne particles. When the latter information is coupled with measurements of airborne particle concentrations, the gas-phase concentrations of phthalates can also be estimated and, subsequently, the contribution of each of these compartments to indoor phthalate exposures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1449-1460
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • octanol/air partition coefficient
  • gas-particle partitioning
  • vapor pressure
  • phthalates
  • settled dust

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