Emission of Hexanal and Carbon Monoxide from Storage of Wood Pellets
Journal article, 2004

Objectives: The objective of the present study was to investigate and describe the emissions of volatile compounds, particularly hexanal and carbon monoxide, from large- and small-scale storage of wood pellets. Methods: Air sampling was performed with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and adsorbent sampling in pellet warehouses, domestic storage rooms, lumber kiln dryers and experimental set-ups. Literature studies were included to describe the formation of hexanal and carbon monoxide and the toxicology of hexanal. Results: A geometric mean aldehyde level of 111 ± 32 mg/m3 was found in one warehouse, with a peak reading of 156 mg/m3. A maximum aldehyde reading of 457 mg/m3 was recorded at the surface of a pellet pile. Hexanal (70-80% w/w) and pentanal (10-15% w/w) dominated, but acetone (83 ± 24 mg/m3), methanol (18 ± 7 mg/m3) and carbon monoxide (56 ± 4 mg/m3) were also found. The emissions in a domestic storage room varied with the ambient temperature and peaked after 2 months storage in the midst of the warm season. Aldehyde levels of 98 ± 4 mg/m3 and carbon monoxide levels of 123 ± 10 mg/m 3 were recorded inside such storage rooms. Elevated levels of hexanal (0.084 mg/m3) were recorded inside domestic housing and 6 mg/m 3 in a room adjacent to a poorly sealed storage area. Experimental laboratory studies confirmed the findings of the field studies. A field study of the emissions from industrial lumber drying also showed the formation of aldehydes and carbon monoxide. Conclusions: High levels of hexanal and carbon monoxide were strongly associated with storage of wood pellets and may constitute an occupational and domestic health hazard. The results from lumber drying show that the emissions of hexanal and carbon monoxide are not limited to wood pellets but are caused by general degradation processes of wood, facilitated by drying at elevated temperature. Emission of carbon monoxide from wood materials at low temperatures (<100°C) has not previously been reported in the literature. We postulate that carbon monoxide is formed due to autoxidative degradation of fats and fatty acids. A toxicological literature survey showed that the available scientific information on hexanal is insufficient to determine the potential risks to health. However, the data presented in this paper seem sufficient to undertake preventive measures to reduce exposure to hexanal.


U.R.A. Svedberg

Sundsvall Hospital

Uppsala University

Bo Galle

Chalmers, Department of Radio and Space Science

H-E. Högberg

Karolinska Institutet

Bo Galle


Annals of Occupational Hygiene

0003-4878 (ISSN) 1475-3162 (eISSN)

Vol. 48 4 339-349

Subject Categories

Other Environmental Engineering



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