Essential oils, predominantly comprised of a group of aromatic chemicals, have attracted increasing attention as they are introduced into indoor environments through various forms of consumer products via different venues. Our study aimed to characterize the profiles and concentrations of emitted volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when evaporating essential oils indoors. Three popular essential oils in the market, lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree, based on a nation-wide questionnaire survey, were tested. Specific aromatic compounds of interest were sampled during evaporating the essential oils, and analyzed by GC-MS. Indoor carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), and particulate matters (PM10) were measured by real-time, continuous monitors, and duplicate samples for airborne fungi and bacteria were collected in different periods of the evaporation. Indoor CO (average concentration 1.48 vs. 0.47 ppm at test vs. background), CO2 (543.21 vs. 435.47 ppm), and TVOCs (0.74 vs. 0.48 ppm) levels have increased significantly after evaporating essential oils, but not the PM10 (2.45 vs. 2.42 ppm). The anti-microbial activity on airborne microbes, an effect claimed by the use of many essential oils, could only be found at the first 30-60 min after the evaporation began as the highest levels of volatile components in these essential oils appeared to emit into the air, especially in the case of tea tree oil. High emissions of linalool (0.092-0.787 mg m(-3)), eucalyptol (0.007-0.856 mg m(-3)), D-limonene (0.004-0.153 mg m(-3)), p-cymene (0.019-0.141 mg m(-3)), and terpinene-4-ol-1 (0.029-0.978 mg m(-3)), all from the family of terpenes, were observed, and warranted for further examination for their health implications, especially for their potential contribution to the increasing indoor levels of secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) in the presence of ozone. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.