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Your Environment. Your Health.

Vapor Intrusion and Your Health

Partnerships for Environmental Public Education (PEPH)

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Vapor Intrusion and Your Health

July 19, 2018

Expert: Kelly Pennell, Ph.D.

When groundwater or soil near hazardous waste sites become contaminated with certain chemicals, such as volatile organic compounds, vapors from the contaminants can move up into the air of nearby homes and businesses. This process is called vapor intrusion and can result in unexpected exposure to contaminants in indoor air.

Vapor intrusion can be difficult to identify, so when residents learn that vapor intrusion is a problem in their homes or communities it can be quite distressing.

In this podcast, we’ll hear how researchers are working to better characterize and predict vapor intrusion so they can help communities understand what it may mean for their health. We will also share tips for improving the air quality in your home.


Kelly Pennell, Ph.D.

Kelly Pennell, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky (UK) in the Department of Civil Engineering.

Her research is focused on understanding how environmental contaminants are transported through vapor intrusion into homes and businesses using field studies and sophisticated models.

Dissolved Contamination

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Pennell is a leading expert in vapor intrusion research. She has been invited by communities to provide technical advice at information sessions.

She is also a member of the UK Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, where she researches the fate and transport of environmental contaminants and helps to communicate scientific research to a variety of audiences, including public health professionals, communities, and decision makers at the local, state, and national level.

She has also led large-scale collaborative studies through the SRP Center to assess vapor intrusion risk using field data.

Additional Links and Resources

Relevant Publications

Roghani M, Jacobs OP, Miller A, Willett EJ, Jacobs JA, Viteri CR, Shirazi E, Pennell KG. 2018. Occurrence of chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a sanitary sewer system: Implications for assessing vapor intrusion alternative pathways. Sci Total Environ. 616-617: 1149-1162.

Reichman R, Shirazi, E, Colliver D, Pennell KG. 2017. U.S. Residential building air exchange rates: New perspectives to improve decision making at vapor intrusion sites. Environ Sci Process Impacts. 19(2):87-100.

Pennell KG, Scammell MK, McClean, MD, Ames J, Weldon B, Friguglietti L, Suuberg E M, Shen R, Indeglia PA, Heiger-Bernays WJ. 2013. Sewer gas: An indoor air source of PCE to consider during vapor intrusion investigations. Ground Water Monit Remediat. 33(3): 119-126.

Pennell KG, Scammell MK, McClean, MD, Suuberg EM, Ames J, Moradi A, Roghani M, Indeglia PA, Friguglietti L, Shen R, Yao Y, Heiger-Bernays W. 2016. Field data and numerical modeling: A multiple lines of evidence approach for assessing vapor intrusion exposure risks. Sci Total Environ. 556: 291-301.

Pennell KG, Thompson M, Rice JW, Senier L, Brown P, Suuberg E. 2013. Bridging research and environmental regulatory processes: The role of knowledge brokers. Environ Sci Technol. 21:11985-11992.

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