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Estimating sources and population exposure to VOC pollution indoors

   Department of Chemistry

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  Prof A C Lewis  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

York United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Data Analysis Ecotoxicology Environmental Chemistry Environmental Engineering

About the Project


Exposure to air pollution is the largest environment risk factor for human health and one of the major causes of preventable deaths globally. A significant fraction of exposure to pollution occurs indoors, including in homes, schools, and workplaces. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a complex class of reactive air pollutants that are particularly significant in buildings where they can accumulate if ventilation is limited. They are emitted from a huge array of sources, including the use of solvent-containing cleaning and personal care products, from decorative materials, insecticides, glues, paints and furnishings. Little is known about population exposure to VOCs indoors, and how these impacts differ across age-groups or communities. VOC concentrations indoors are high variable because of building construction type and ventilation rates and with emissions affected by individual behaviours. Particularly uncertain are the connections between indoor concentrations and the formulation, design and use of consumer products that contain VOCs. A lack of evidence and insight into these factors is currently limiting the development of policy and advice that may used to support public health. Some examples of recent work in this field on concentrations and emissions of VOCs from consumer products completed by the York labs can be found at: and


This PhD project will work to extend analytical methods for measuring a wide range of VOCs indoors, based on scalable field-deployable sampling methods and laboratory analysis using methods such as GC-MS. Sampling in homes, schools and workplaces is envisaged, linked to survey information collection and contextual analysis of other factors such as outdoor air pollution, meteorology, demographics and indices of deprivation. The project will contribute to wider research on indoor air quality ongoing in York, including engagement with health cohort studies such as Born in Bradford. The project will also undertake evaluation of consumer product contributions, and the effects of formulation, on indoor VOC concentrations through controlled tests in homes, working in collaboration with a long-term industry partner.

Experimental Approach.

The project will be a blend of analytical chemistry research using GC-MS and GC-FID lab techniques, alongside field work and data analytics. The project will use a range of statistical approaches to support the study and will involve collaboration with other researchers in York and outside to enhance the project. The PhD will include controlled experiments with modified domestic products to test the impacts of formulation on indoor concentrations, and assess the viability of re-formulation as a possible policy tool for emissions reduction.


The Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories are the largest and best equipped research labs of their kind in the UK. They provide a rich and diverse training environment, spanning laboratory techniques and instrument development through to data analytics and computer modelling.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills:

Bespoke training and support on instrumentation, data and statistics will be provided by the atmospheric science team in York.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel:

Your background

You should expect hold or expect to achieve the equivalent of at least a UK upper second class degree in Chemistry, Physics or a related Natural Science or Engineering subject. Please check the entry requirements for your country:

How to Apply

Submit a PhD application by the deadline:

Funding Notes

This PhD is fully funded for 3.5 years by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS -
Funding covers:
- tuition fees at the home or overseas rate:
- a stipend for living costs at the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) rate (£15,609 for 2021/22)
- research training and support costs
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