Trends in Analytical Chemistry 68, 88-106 (2015). [DOI:10.1016/j.trac.2015.02.013]

Potential of volatile organic compounds as markers of entrapped humans for use in urban search and rescue operations

Pawel Mochalski, Karl Unterkofler, Gerald Teschl, and Anton Amann

Volatile organic compounds emitted by a human body form a chemical signature capable of providing invaluable information on the physiological status of an individual and, thereby, could serve as signs-of-life for detecting victims after natural or man-made disasters. In this review a database of potential biomarkers of human presence was created on the basis of existing literature reports on volatiles in human breath, skin emanation, blood, and urine. Approximate fluxes of these species from the human body were estimated and used to predict their concentrations in the vicinity of victims. The proposed markers were classified into groups of different potential for victim detection. The major classification discriminants were the capability of detection by portable, real-time analytical instruments and background levels in urban environment. The data summarized in this review are intended to assist studies on the detection of humans via chemical analysis and accelerate investigations in this area of knowledge.

Keywords: search and rescue operation, volatile markers, VOCs, human scent, earthquake, entrapment

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