June 01, 2013

Chasing Fumes: The Challenges Posed by Vapor Intrusion

Laurent C. Levy, Ph.D., P.E.

Afew years ago, I purchased a single-family home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The house abutted a gas station, which I learned had a substantial file at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. That fact persuaded me to sample basement indoor air as part of my pre-purchase inspection. Good news. There was no benzene and I eventually bought the house. For the next few years I wondered whether the ethanol that was detected was tied to the gas station, urban air, or perhaps—I thought, with a beer in my hand—the previous owner’s ethanol consumption. I had just had a personal encounter with one of the challenges of vapor intrusion assessments: differentiating between background contributions to indoor air and true contributions from vapor intruding from the subsurface.

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