Indoor Air VOCs


Indoor air investigations can be challenging.  There are many aspects to indoor air quality, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), inorganic compounds, particulates, allergens, comfort factors, etc.  One of the most difficult areas to look at is the VOCs, which are organic chemicals (containing primarily carbon and hydrogen) that vaporize easily at room temperature.  There are thousands of different VOCs in indoor air from hundreds of sources, making both source identification and remediation plans challenging.


Most people do not notice an indoor air quality problem unless they smell something unpleasant or feel ill but many VOCs have no noticeable characteristics, leading to poor air quality situations without any perceptible signs.

In developing an action plan for resolving VOC issues, it’s not sufficient simply to know which chemicals are present.  Understanding the sources as well as how the VOCs will react to changing conditions is crucial to improving air quality.

Because air quality is such a complex issue it is important to have a clear goal in mind when preparing a sampling strategy.  Here are a few key questions to ask yourself.

  • What’s the problem or purpose?  Odor, physical symptoms, real estate transaction, monitoring, simple curiosity?

  • Is the problem present all the time or is it specific to a particular location/time/activity?

  • Have any new products, activities, or environmental conditions been introduced recently?

  • Is the effect limited to one person or is everyone affected?

  • Do you need an overview of the VOCs or more detailed chemical information?


Prism offers a wide range of sampling and analysis options to address your indoor air concerns.


Whether buying or selling a home or investigating a problem in the current home, residential air quality is complicated by the variety and strength of indoor air contaminants. 

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Commercial spaces (e.g., offices, retail, restaurants, etc.) can include many activities and a variety of different occupants.  These provide many potential air contamination sources and can complicate indoor air quality investigations.

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Industrial and manufacturing facilities must deal with a number of atypical issues, such as chemicals used in process activities and emissions.  Knowing the specific chemicals emitted by such activities improves process productivity and protects worker health.

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Formaldehyde is one of the most common VOCs and one of primary concern due to the large number of possible sources and the significant health concerns, especially as a carcinogen. 

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Mold is one of the most common concerns in indoor environments.  Mold spores are everywhere, just waiting for the right combination of conditions to begin growing to form new colonies.  The key component for mold growth is the presence of moisture, without a water source mold will not grow.

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The measurement of VOCs is complicated by the compound diversity in terms of volatility range and chemical class, as well as the sampling requirements (e.g., real-time measurement on site, grab sample, time weighted average over 1 to 8 hours up to several days, continuous measurement). Prism provides analysis options utilizing a range of standard methods (NIOSH 2549, EPA TO-17, ISO 16000-6) as well as methods developed in-house to address specific needs.