Open Characterization of Volatile Organic Compounds in Air

Health Effects

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) belong to a broad scale of chemicals with high production levels all over the world and widespread application in industry and workplaces. They cover a broad spectrum of chemical classes with different physiochemical and biological properties.  Because of their volatility, VOCs can easily disperse in air and chemical exposure through inhalation is the most prominent route, although other pathways such as ingestion and dermal absorption are possible. Since many different airborne organics can be present at the same time, exposure is characterized by the simultaneous contact with these chemicals. VOCs in indoor air are also associated with increased rate of asthma and chronic bronchitis. Other common observed signs of volatile organics exposure include eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, nausea, dizziness, and allergic skin reaction.

air condition vent in office ceiling close upOdour Complaints

Unpleasant odours resulting from some airborne compounds have been recognized as warning signs of potential health risks. Some odours irritate the lower respiratory tract and can trigger asthma episodes. However, some compounds possess very low odour thresholds (ppt to ppb range) and can cause objectionable smell at low concentrations. It has been known nowadays that odour sensations in the environment can indeed cause health symptoms that are primarily depending on individual and environmental factors.

Laboratory Analysis

Most analyses carried out by analytical laboratories mainly address a list of target compounds, which are expected to be present due to their potential usage at the site, or in compliance to government regulations. However, in situations where health and odour complaints are of concern, traditional target compound analyses are ineffective in locating the culprits, often missing the compounds responsible for such complaints. In many cases, the complexity of VOCs emanating from various industrial processes or unexpected indoor sources cannot be resolved using conventional target compound analysis. To understand what airborne organics are present in a given environment, a broader picture of the workplace or indoor air is necessary, which will help to elucidate the identities and the respective levels of odorous or hazardous chemicals.

Open Characterization with Interpretation at CASSEN Testing Laboratories


CASSEN Testing Laboratories offers Open Characterization analysis with the option of interpretation of results for indoor and workplace air to address many cases of VOC-related air quality complaints. The recognition of unusual VOC patterns, presence of odorous compounds, chemical reactions and product emissions are all part of CASSEN’s extensive expertise in this type of analysis. CASSEN Open Characterization analysis includes determination of many major volatile organic compounds, summation of VOCs,  identification of relevant sources, odour description, exposure limits, and interpretation of results. Other relevant information, such as odour threshold limits and health effects can be requested. The specialized investigative analytical services provide in-depth analytical assessments that identify potential sources of VOCs and help to resolve air quality issues.


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