Glenn C. Morrison, PhD, P.E., F.ISIAQ – Healthy Buildings 2015 Review, SVOC’s and More – {Flashback Friday: 7-24-15 | Episode 377

Air Date: 11-18-2016|Episode 438

This week on IAQ Radio we have finally synced schedules and welcome Dr. Glenn Morrison. Dr. Morrison is a professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Dr. Morrison graduated with his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999 after working for 6 years as a chemical engineer in research and development of catalysts…

Full Description:

This week on IAQ Radio we have finally synced schedules and welcome Dr. Glenn Morrison. Dr. Morrison is a professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Dr. Morrison graduated with his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999 after working for 6 years as a chemical engineer in research and development of catalysts. Has over 25 years of chemical and environmental engineering experience, most of that focusing on chemistry and transport phenomena in indoor environments. An NSF Career award winner and the current President of the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate, his research has included ozone surface chemistry, building forensics, sensor development, pollutant movement in buildings, aerosol transport of SVOCs, exposure implications of smog reactions with human surfaces and hair, methamphetamine contamination of residences, design of indoor surfaces for improved air quality and related projects. He has been responsible for over $2.8 M in research funding from NSF, EPA, NIST, NIOSH, the California Air Resources Board, Missouri Research Board and the Green Building Council. He and his students have published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers and reports. We will ask to discuss the major themes and some specific presentations he attended at Healthy Buildings America 2015 and we want to discuss the current emphasis on SVOC’s plus much more with one of the most prolific IEQ researchers in the country. LEARN MORE this week on IAQ Radio!

Z-Man’s Blog:

Can SVOCs make me sneeze?

Dr. Glenn Morrison, PhD, PE, F.ISIAQ was today’s guest on IAQradio. Dr. Morrison is most interested in the physics and chemistry of indoor air pollution. He is the current president of ISIAQ, the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate which recently held its Healthy Buildings America Conference in Boulder, CO. Alternating conference subject matter resulted in a smaller more family-like event with approximately 200 attendees.

Takeaways from the ISIAQ conference. Funding drives research topics. Alfred Sloan foundation is funding microbiome research.  The EPA is currently funding research on IAQ and Climate change. Other research topics of interest include: issues in schools and SVOCS (semi-volatile organic compounds). Hands on moisture measurements with new instruments.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

  • Due to the lack of good epidemiology and toxicology studies, the composition of indoor environments & health is the research area that needs the most attention. We study classes of chemicals, sometimes individual chemicals and don’t really know which are worst. A complicating factor is that every building is different. The health effects of second-hand cigarette smoke took years to validate and cigarette smoke has similar chemistry.
  • CO2 below 2,500 PPM has been shown  to cause cognitive impairment. CO is not just an indicator gas it’s a pollutant.
  • What is a SVOC? SVOCs are organic compounds that have boiling points roughly in the range of250 to 400 °C.
  • The emphasis is placed on commonly encountered VOCs that would have an effect on air quality.
  • SVOCs have boiling points ranging from 240-260 °Cto 380-400°C. Despite high boiling points, SVOCs such as plasticizers, pesticides, flame retardants designed to be persistent can vaporize from the surfaces of products containing them because they are not “bound” to the materials.
  • SVOCs remain more persistent within indoor environments. Other examples of SVOCs include: PCBs, nicotine, methamphetamine & pentachlorophenol.
  • When spilled the odor of gasoline is readily apparent due to VOCs contained within it. Gasoline is composed of small, medium and large molecules. SVOCs may not have noticeable odors.
  • Ying Xu and the University of Texas is studying how SVOCs migrate within buildings and the pathways of occupant exposure.
  • After SVOCs migrate out they do complex things in physical chemistry, moving from vinyl flooring or computer plastics to dust where they are inhaled.
  • Phthalates in vinyl flooring and caulks take decades or longer to deplete and migrate out.
  • SVOCs in cleaning products and personal care products migrate out much faster.
  • Human skin is like a sponge absorbing and desorbing chemicals. Some SVOCs inhaled, absorbed through skin or ingested (hand-to-mouth) accumulate in body oils and in body fats. Other SVOCs are metabolized by the body into other compounds that may be more toxic. Large molecular weight phthalates used as plasticizers in flooring enter the human body via dust route.
  • From lab studies it is predicted that methamphetamine migrates from surfaces to fabrics/clothing and to mouth.
  • SVOCs enter the body through a set of complex pathways we need to first understand the chemistries to then understand the pathways.
  • Health effects of SVOC at levels found in doors are mostly chronic not acute. Health concerns include cancer and endocrine disruption. SVOCs may modify gene expression and pass traits along to children. [“Epigeneticsis the study, in the field of genetics, of cellular and physiological phenotypic trait variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells read genes instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence.” Wikipedia]
  • Flame retardants and phthalates have been researched extensively, in vitro and animal studies. Health effects on mice are hard to translate into humans.
  • Flame retardants produce additional contaminants during combustion.
  • Precautionary principle– the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted.
  • Are we really saving lives with flame retardants? According to California law, product labels must indicate when flame retardants are added, giving consumers the option of purchasing products with or without added flame retardants.
  • There was no prior research to determine the relationship between clothing and SVOCs. SVOCs don’t volatilize, they like to stick to things. Clothing can act as a filter and impede dermal exposure to SVOCs. Clothing hung in closets can absorb and accumulate large amounts (6-8 X) of SVOCs like dibutyl phthalate. As the skin warms the clothing SVOCs are released and absorbed into skin. A volunteer study in Denmark demonstrated chemicals are absorbed from the air and transferred across skin. Direct absorption is 4 X slower than from clothing and uptake through skin is greater when wearing clothing. Washing removes some chemicals clinging to clothing.
  • SVOCs interact with aerosols and any fine (.1 microns) airborne particles such as salts, organic species, atmospheric chemistry and combustion. Particles like to absorb SVOCs. Particles move around rooms like gases. SVOCs absorb particles and then release them. The SVOC transfer rate is greater with particles than without particles.
  • Human health is more important than having vinyl floors. As an alternative to phthalate plasticizers vegetable based plasticizers are available.

Practical applications from research:

Following methamphetamine cleanup samples (surface and air) should be taken every 6-12 months because chemicals migrate out after time. We should monitor anything we do after completion.

Indiscriminate oxidation:

  • The surface chemistry of ozone is uncontrollable. Ozone produces other compounds. Ozone is too indiscriminate a process. We need follow-up studies before and after ozone application. Ionizing fields often produce ozone.
  • Hydroxyl generators are confusing. Hydroxyl radicals don’t live long enough to escape the device that generates them. Hydroxyl radicals are hard to measure directly without very costly equipment.
  • The Photo Catalytic Oxidation devices he studied did generate small amounts or ozone and didn’t do much of anything.
  • Never put ozone or devices that generate ozone into buildings when occupied.
  • Likes intelligently designed materials that help remove pollutants such as ozone absorbers.
  • We can’t control how people inside of buildings behave. Passive building system coatings that lower exposure and have longevity can help people with respiratory problems during smog season.
  • Titanium dioxide is unlikely to be a successful technology as a coating on surfaces. The fundamental barrier is that it needs energy from photons; the wavelength and energy are generally insufficient.
  • Titanium dioxide coatings on the exterior of Japanese buildings use sunlight to aid oxidization. Not sure what effect titanium dioxide coatings outdoors has on air quality? Titanium dioxide isn’t perfect it also can generate undesirable compounds.

The future

  • New sensors provide real time info and help in the study of epidemiology.
  • Using atmospheric research instruments will assist research indoors
  • Consolidation of green building materials. We really aren’t sure what is in recycled materials.

Pet peeve

Adding things unnecessarily such as fragrance.

Final word

ISIAQ is reaching out and trying to better communicate science to practitioners. Dr. Morrison’s contact info: gcm at mst dot edu or 573-341-7192

Today’s Music: Missouri S&T Fight Song, You Tube

 Z-Man signing off


Who is the patron Saint of engineers?


St. Patrick