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Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) - What does it mean?

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Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are contained in many products. Due to their volatility, VOC can be released from these products into the surrounding air during production, application and use. Several countries have restrictions of the VOC content in products, to limit the potentially released VOCs. Other regulations limit only the emissions and do not care about those VOC that remain in the product and are not released into air.

These regulations use different terms and definitions that are not equivalent. Some examples are outlined below.

Indoor air quality and VOC emission testing

Below definitions are used for indoor air quality monitoring, and for VOC emissions testing.

WHO World Health Organization

WHO, as cited in ISO 16000-6, defined VOC as any organic compound with a boiling point in the range from (50 °C to 100 °C) to (240 °C to 260 °C), corresponding to having saturation vapour pressures at 25 °C greater than 100 kPa.

ISO 16000-6, EN 16516, VOC regulations in Europe, AgBB and more

Total VOCs (TVOC) is defined in ISO 16000-6 and in EN 16516 as all VOCs (ISO 16000-6) or as the sum of all detected volatile organic compounds, sampled on Tenax TA, which elute from a non-polar or slightly polar gas chromatographic separation column between and including n-hexane and n-hexadecane (n-C6 - n-C16), measured by mass selective detector (MSD), and quantified as toluene equivalent (meaning as if it were toluene).

This covers any organic compound with a boiling ranging circa between 68 °C and 287 °C. This definition is the mostly used for VOC emission testing throughout the world.

The German VOC regulation uses a different definition, see

California CDPH

Carbon-containing compounds (excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides and carbonates and ammonium carbonate) with vapor pressures at standard conditions approximately ranging between those for n-pentane through n-heptadecane (n-C5 - n-C17). For the purposes of the Californian CDPH standard method, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are considered to be VOCs.

VOC content

Below definitions are used when setting limit values of VOC content in product for reducing total emissions during life-cycle of the product, for minimizing any contribution of VOC to generation of ground level ozone. Limit values apply mostly to paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants.

European Decopaint Directive (2004/42/EC):

VOC is any organic chemical with boiling point below 250 °C at a standard atmospheric pressure of 101.3 kPa. To be given as grams VOC per liter product.

Several US specifications such as SCAQMD:

VOC content is the content of volatile chemical minus the aqueous fraction of the fraction, minus the fraction of non-ozone-generating so-called "exempt compounds", such as acetone. To be given as grams / liter. Here you can download an illustration. Another definition is used by the same regulators, saying that VOC content is the content of any volatile organic chemicals visible with boiling point below 270 °C or 280°C, different definitions apply.

German TRGS 613

Solvent content of a product is the content of any volatile organic chemicals with boiling point below 200 °C. This regulation was made for worker protection.

Other definitions

Other definitions define VOC as a function of vapour pressure at a standard atmospheric pressure of 101.3 kPa.

Other definitions

VVOC = Very Volatile Organic Compound

Any organic compound more volatile than VOC.

SVOC = Semi-Volatile Organic Compound

Any organic compound less volatile than VOC. There are definitions of SVOC in EN 16516 and for the EU ecolabel for paints and coatings.

NVOC = Non-Volatile Organic Compound

Any organic compound not volatile enough to be detected as vapour-phase constituent of indoor air.

POM = Particle-bound Organic Matter

Any organic compound not volatile enough to be detected as vapour-phase constituent of indoor air but that can be detected in solid form in indoor air - as small airborne particles, or adsorbed on inorganic dust particles.

Eurofins VOC related services

Eurofins offers documentation of compliance with the specifications on emissions of VOC and aldehydes by independent and ISO 17025 accredited testing, and if relevant also with external surveillance (inspections, re-testing), and certification, e.g. in combination with the Eurofins operated certification programme Indoor Air Comfort - certified products.

Eurofins operates both an accredited and notified test house and an approved ÜZ certification body. VOC emissions testing for any program or regulation can be easily combined with tests for other regulations or labels such as Belgian VOC regulationFrench VOC regulationsGerman VOC regulationsEMICODE, German Blue Angel, Finnish M1 and US tests. Such combinations allow to save money compared with separate testing for each of these purposes. One example is the Eurofins Pan-European test package.

Certification and testing services for Ü markCE mark and the Eurofins certification program Indoor Air Comfort - certified products can be ordered in parallel for use on different market segments - there will be significant costs saving when compared to ordering these services separately.

Contact to VOC Testing Laboratories

Please see here contact information of Eurofins VOC testing laboratories in Europe, China and Japan: