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Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology

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VOC Emission -- Testing, Indoor Spaces -- Air Quality



Several studies suggest that far-field transmission (>6 ft) explains a significant number of COVID-19 superspreading outbreaks.


Therefore, quantifying the ratio of near- and far-field exposure to emissions from a source is key to better understanding human-to-human airborne infectious disease transmission and associated risks.


In this study, we used an environmentally-controlled chamber to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from a healthy participant who consumed breath mints, which contained unique tracer compounds. Tracer measurements were made at 0.76 m (2.5 ft), 1.52 m (5 ft), 2.28 m (7.5 ft) from the participant, as well as in the exhaust plenum of the chamber.


We observed that 0.76 m (2.5 ft) trials had ~36–44% higher concentrations than other distances during the first 20 minutes of experiments, highlighting the importance of the near-field exposure relative to the far-field before virus-laden respiratory aerosol plumes are continuously mixed into the far-field. However, for the conditions studied, the concentrations of human-sourced tracers after 20 minutes and approaching the end of the 60-minute trials at 0.76 m, 1.52 m, and 2.28 m were only ~18%, ~11%, and ~7.5% higher than volume-averaged concentrations, respectively.


This study suggests that for rooms with similar airflow parameters disease transmission risk is dominated by near-field exposures for shorter event durations (e.g., initial 20–25-minutes of event) whereas far-field exposures are critical throughout the entire event and are increasingly more important for longer event durations.


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