Evaluating couch polyurethane foam for a potential passive sampler of semivolatile organic compounds

Kyunghoon Kim, Hyeong Moo Shin, Luann Wong, Thomas M. Young, Deborah H. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Objective: Polyurethane foam (PUF), a proven sampling medium for measuring air concentrations of organic compounds, is widely used in upholstered home furniture. We evaluated the potential utility of couch PUF as a passive sampler and as a reservoir for non-flame retardant semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs). Methods: We collected PUF samples from 13 California home couches, measured concentrations (CPUF) of 64 SVOCs at three different depths (i.e., top, top-middle, and middle from couch surfaces facing outward), and examined concentration changes with depth. To calculate the PUF-air partition coefficient (KPUF-air = CPUF/Cair = CPUF × Kdust-air/Cdust), we used the calculated dust-air partition coefficient (Kdust-air) with the octanol-air partition coefficient (Koa) and dust concentrations (Cdust) simultaneously collected and measured. We used KPUF-air to compute fugacity capacity of PUF and chemical mass distribution among various indoor compartments and PUF. Results: Among 29 detected compounds, 11 compounds were detected in more than 50% of the samples at all depths. Among the 11 compounds, concentrations of phenanthrene, 2-benzylideneoctanal, galaxolide, tonalide, and homosalate decreased with depth. Among the studied SVOCs, more than 20% of the total mass was distributed to couch PUF for phenol and compounds in skin-applied products (i.e., 2-benzylideoneoctanal, galaxolide, and homosalate). Conclusions: Our results showed that couch PUF can absorb many SVOCs and may be an important reservoir for some SVOCs. However, it may not be an effective passive sampling medium for those that have relatively high Koa values. Direct dermal contact with couch seats may be an important exposure route for non-users of skin-applied compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129349
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Couch
  • Partition coefficient
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Sampling medium
  • Semivolatile organic compound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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