VOC Testing


VOC Testing Will Show You Specific Chemicals With A Probable Source

VOC Reports Will Also Include Cleanup Directions

You may have concerns about an odor in your workplace or home. VOC testing will help to identify the odor. 

VOC testing may also be recommended by your doctor or attorney, as several VOCs in certain concentrations are known to cause cancer.  

Other VOCs may give you a headache, burn your nose, eyes, or throat, or a wide variety of other symptoms.  

Some VOCs most people can easily smell. Other, sometimes dangerous, VOCs can’t be detected by your nose at concentrations that may become dangerous.

VOCs are organic compounds that contain carbon and volatilize or evaporate at normal room temperature

 The most common VOCs  in our air are formaldehyde, benzene, and naphthalene. We usually test for 500+ chemicals to give a more complete understanding of your indoor air problems.

Formaldehyde comes primarily from wood glued products (furniture, plywood, press board, etc.). 

Benzene comes comes from forest fires, crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. 

Naphthalene comes from phthalic anhydride which is the primary chemical used in large scale plastics manufacturing. Moth balls contain may contain naphthalene.  It is highly recommended that if you must use moth balls, be sure they are manufactured in the US.

Common Sources of VOCs

Building Materials

  • Paints, varnishes, calks, adhesives
  • Composite wood products
  • Vinyl Flooring, upholstery, and foam


  • Smoking, burning wood
  • Cooking, crafting-hobbies
  • Dry cleaning, photocopiers, 3d printers

Home and Personal Care

  • Cosmetics
  • Gasoline, fuel oil
  • Cleaning Products & Air Fresheners

What is a TVOC?

First, there are thousands of different Volatile Organic Compounds.  Total Volatile Organic Compounds are the total of the individual chemicals added together using a weighted average. Common air monitors will use 4-10 VOCs to determine TVOCs. Professional lab testing uses 500 chemicals to obtain TVOCs using a weighted average for each chemical. Air monitor TVOCs cannot be reliably correlated with professional TVOCs from an environmental lab. 

One lab’s TVOCs will be different from a second lab’s TVOCs.

No one (the labs, the scientists, the people who set the standards) can agree on how and what chemicals should be included in a TVOC number. The problem is different testing methods have different failure rates, test for different chemicals, etc. 

Over the years several standards or guidelines have emerged based on typical indoor air quality. The most used standard is ISO1600-29:2014. This Standard identifies  analysis methods for both collection and analysis. This Standard defines TVOCs as “VOC mixed gas” of 40 individual chemical compounds. But another group of scientists refer to TVOCs as “VOC mixed gas” of 22 individual chemicals.

Our recommendation is to follow the standards for TVOC levels that come from the lab that did the analysis. 

We test for VOCs and Semi-volatiles in Your Air

We analyze the most common 500+ chemical that are in your air and if those chemicals should be a concern for your health. Our labs do produce a TVOC number. It’s a formula used by environmental labs giving preference to chemicals that cause more harm. These levels should be used as a general guide to the health of your indoor air.

VOCs, TVOCs, and Semi-volatiles Status or Surveys

Appropriate for residential, commercial, and light industrial.

We start with using a handheld array of environmental sensors throughout your areas of concern. This device will show TVOCs, temperature and relative humidity. We also take an outside baseline. This is a great reference point for you to have.

This device will show TVOCs, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, temperature and relative humidity.  We can also use a monitor to test for formaldehyde. Handheld sensors for formaldehyde usually require recalibration or replacement every 30 days to maintain accuracy. Formaldehyde is a very corrosive chemical. For accuracy, we usually use sorbent tube analysis that requires an environmental lab.

air mapping

We use a 6 channel particle meter in your areas of concern. This enables us to identify the particle load that you are breathing in your indoor air. Particle count, especially for 2.5 PM is widely used for pollution and smoke, both wildfire and building fires.

This is used with the environmental sensors sweep of your areas.

A "sniffer" can't smell everything.

voc tube

We discuss what we’ve discovered inside your space, and, if appropriate, we will test for the 500 most common chemicals using a sorbent tube that is processed by a certified environmental lab. 

Sorbent tubes are filled with a material that has the ability to absorb other molecules (chemicals) in such a way that an environmental lab can identify them and report the concentration.

We can also test for specific chemicals to meet your project’s goals.

Your Report

We collect all our field data (notes, photos, sensor readings) and create an action plan or protocol. 

Sometimes action plans are things you can do. Here’s an example: if you are getting gasoline fumes from your attached garage, the fix may be to install weatherproofing around the garage access door.  Other times, things aren’t simple.

If professional chemical abatement is indicated by the lab results, a protocol is developed for you to work with an abatement company to fix the problem.  If possible, obtain three quotes using the same protocol.

What can a "Sniffer" Be Used For

  1. Screening for unusually high TVOC levels, to determine if, where and when to take air samples.
  2. Verification of ventilation systems (other tools are available that work with the “sniffer” to test for air flow)
  3. Monitoring TVOCs for screening or direct compliance to government and industry regulators and guidelines.
  4. VOC source tracing (“bloodhounding”) to follow elevated VOCS to the source.
  5. Spot Checking supply diffusers and outdoors.
  6. Comparative testing to confirm VOC air concentrations before and after air cleaning or remediation. A “sniffer” is also helpful to measure air quality before and after painting or purchasing an air purification system.
  7. Off-gassing emulation of TVOCs from various products.

Read more about Formaldehyde

Read more about side stream or 2nd Hand Cigarette Smoke Testing

Indoor Acceptable Levels of TVOCs


Less than 200 – Ideal

200 – 300 Good

300 – 400 Acceptable

400 – 500 Marginal

500 + – Acionable


Less than 200 – Ideal

200 – 350 Good

350 – 500 Acceptable

500 – 700 Marginal

700+ – Acionable