The Majority of Toxic chemicals we breathe every day are VOCs.

VOCs are organic compounds (those that contain carbon) that volitalize or evaporate at normal room temperature.

 The most common VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in our air are formaldehyde, benzene, and naphthalene. 

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.

Common Sources of VOCs

Building Materials

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

Home and Personal Care

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


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

What is a TVOC?

First, there are thousands of different Volatile Organic Compounds. It’s logical to assume that Total Volatile Organic Compounds are the total of the individual chemicals added together. 

It’s not that straight forward.

No one (the labs, the scientists, the people who set the standards) can agree on how and what chemicals should be included in one TVOC number. 

Over the years several standards 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. Here’s our guideline:


Indoor TVOC Levels

HomeCommercial Office
Less than 200 - IdealLess than 200 - Ideal
200-300 - Good200-350 - Good
300-400 - Acceptable350-500 - Acceptable
400-500 - Marginal500-700 - Marginal
More than 500 - ActionableMore than 700 - Actionable

We test for VOCs, TVOCs, and Semivolatiles 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. TVOCs are Total Volatile Organic Compounds except it really isn’t a total. 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 Semivolatiles 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, temperature and relative humidity. We also take particle meter readings; .5  through 10 micron sized particles.

sniffer | American Air Testing

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.

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 450 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. 

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. An ACTION PLAN is developed for you to work with an abatement company to fix the problem. 

What can a "Sniffer" Be Used For

Screening for unusually high VOC levels, to determine if, where and when to take air samples.

Verification of ventilation systems (other tools are available that work with the “sniffer” to test for air flow, etc.)

Monitoring TVOCs for screening or direct compliance to government and industry regulators and guidelines.

VOC source tracing (“bloodhounding”) to follow elevated VOCS to the source.

Spot Checking supply diffusers and outdoors.

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.

Off-gassing emulation of TVOCs from various products.