The Differences Between VOC Content and Emissions

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) testing is growing in popularity and importance in many industries. As I address more and more requests to evaluate many different products for VOC, one critical question that usually needs to be answered: Is the testing required going to be for VOC content or VOC emission?

25 October 2012

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) testing is growing in popularity and importance in many industries. As I address more and more requests to evaluate many different products for VOC, one critical question that usually needs to be answered: Is the testing required going to be for VOC content or VOC emission?

Many times I find that those needing the data are not sure which one is required.

VOC content seems simple enough, right? After all, simply put: It is the content of Volatile Organic Compounds in the product. It does appear simple, but there's more to it. Many products on the market that require VOC content testing have highly volatile compounds as the primary ingredient, and that ingredient under certain regulations can be exempt from the final VOC content results. Many test procedures for VOC content tend to measure any compound (organic or not) that is volatile in a given temperature range. Water as an example is not a compound of concern, but additional testing is required to determine the water content of the material, so that it also can be excluded. When it is all said and done, the VOC content is a multi-faceted number for the content in a product that someone is concerned might evaporate into the air and that could pose some degree of health concern. Typical application: Paint, coatings, adhesives, cleaners, air fresheners etc.

VOC emission doesn't seem all that different on the surface. It is just the content that really does evaporate in the air, right? This is correct, but it is complicated by the conditions under which the evaporation happens. Those conditions are the primary difference in the test methods that exist for this type of testing. These tests are designed to simulate a real world temperature and air flow situation that the product may be exposed. During this simulation, the air, which potentially contains the emissions of the product is sampled and tested to determine the concentration of the specific volatile compounds of concern in the test specification. Typical application: automotive interior parts, assemblies, and materials; automotive carpet; building materials and furniture.

What questions do you have about VOC testing? Please leave your comments below and one of our experts will get back to you.

Today's expert blogger is Joe Franklin,Manager, Analytical Testing of Intertek's Automotive Research Department. Joe is based in San Antonio, Texas.