The following is a summary of the “Modelling the equilibrium partitioning of low concentrations of airborne volatile organic compounds in human IVF laboratories,” published in the January 2023 issue of Reproductive Biomedicine Online by Fox, et al.

Airborne volatile organic compound (VOC) concentrations were modeled at equilibrium, moving from the air phase to the oil cover layer to the water-based culture media and finally into/onto the embryo (air–oil–water–embryo). Air-phase VOC was modeled using reported VOC concentrations found in ART suites, older IVF clinics, and hospitals, as well as at 10 ppb and 100 ppb for all compounds. Around 23 known VOC in the healthcare industry were used in the modeling.

Acrolein, formaldehyde, phenol, toluene, acetaldehyde, ethanol, and isopropanol are the seven compounds that the embryologist and clinician should be most concerned about, according to the partitioning model. The most potent cytotoxic factor and the highest concentration of toxic VOCs in media are acrolein, formaldehyde, phenol, toluene, and acetaldehyde. Ethanol and isopropanol are also found in the highest concentrations in the air phase and are predicted to have the highest concentrations in water-based cultures.

As a result of the equilibrium partitioning modeling of VOC, they now have a firm grasp on how airborne VOC partition from the air phase adversely affects human IVF outcomes. This work is based on a theoretical model, and the values presented have not been measured experimentally or clinically. Nevertheless, poor clinical outcomes are probably reflected in high air-phase and toxic VOC concentrations in culture media. The findings that IVF outcomes improve with decreased air-phase VOC concentrations are supported by this model, which suggests that better air quality in IVF laboratories reduces the chemical burden imparted on embryos.