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VOC Testing Services List of Common Indicator VOC's







Tetrachloroethylene AKA tetrachloroethene, perchloroethylene, and PCE. CAS#: 127-18-4.

Tetrachloroethylene is a manufactured chemical used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing. Exposure to very high concentrations of tetrachloroethylene can cause dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, difficulty in speaking and walking, unconsciousness, and death, such high levels are nottypically expected to be found by voc testing services.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that tetrachloroethylene may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen. Tetrachloroethylene has been shown to cause liver tumors in mice and kidney tumors in male rats.

 It is a nonflammable liquid at room temperature. It evaporates easily into the air and has a sharp, sweet odor. Most people can smell tetrachloroethylene when it is present in the air at a level of 1 part tetrachloroethylene per million parts of air (1 ppm) or more, although some can smell it at even lower levels. 

LEVELS IN GENERAL:The EPA maximum contaminant level for the amount of tetrachloroethylene that can be in drinking water is 0.005 milligrams tetrachloroethylene per liter of water (0.005 mg/L).The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a limit of 100 ppm for an 8-hour workday over a 40-hour workweek.The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that tetrachloroethylene be handled as a potential carcinogen and recommends that levels in workplace air should be as low as possible. 
From: The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 





According to Wikipedia, Plasticizers are additive, most commonly phthalates that give hard plastics like PVC t
he desired flexibility and durability. They are often based on organic chemicals known as esters. Plasticizers work by embedding themselves between the chains of polymers, spacing them apart (increasing the "free volume"), and thus making it softer. Some plasticizers evaporate and tend to concentrate in an enclosed space; the "new car smell" is caused mostly by plasticizers evaporating from the car interior. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasticizers#Plasticizers_for_plastics.

A study from Finland has shown that indoor plastic materials may have adverse respiratory effects on children. Plastic materials are common in flooring and wall surfaces of bathrooms, kitchens, playrooms, and bedrooms. They are also common in day care centers and schools. While testing for voc's many of these materials, which are PVC based, have been found to emit plasticizers, solvents, and alcohols. Odorous alcohols are often released if excessive moisture in the environment reacts with the plasticizers. Children were studied for their frequency of asthma, allergic rhinitis, persistent wheezing, persistent cough, persistent phlegm, respiratory infection and nasal congestion. Information was obtained on the chemical and microbiological air pollutants in their homes and day care and the presence of plastic materials. The study, involving over 2,500 children, showed that the risks of respiratory symptoms typical of asthma were associated with the presence of plastics. The overall risks of asthma and pneumonia were also increased in those children exposed to plastics than those unexposed. These studies confirmed earlier ones in Norway that showed an increased risk of bronchial obstruction during the first two years of a child's life if exposure to PVC and plastic surface materials occurred. The authors concluded that plastic materials emit chemicals that have adverse effects, and that these chemical levels vary based on the ventilation within the environment.



A few common phthalates or plasticizers are:



Diisodecyl phthalate: A plasticizer  used in automobile undercoating, wires and cables, shoes, pool liners.

Di-n-octyl phthalate: Found in flooring materials, canvas tarps, and notebook covers. DOP was used in the production of medical blood bags. It was one of the most common plasticizers in production with about 9 tons of DOP produced every year until 1987. They stopped using it in blood bags when it was found to be leaching into the stored blood.




Diisononyl phthalate: Found in shoes, toys, and construction materials.




Butyl benzyl phthalate: From fake leather and traffic cones.




Di-n-hexyl phthalate: Found in automobile parts, tool handles, dishwasher baskets, flooring, tarps, and flea collars.




Styrene: From styrofoam and styrofoam-like materials.  Styrene is primarily used in the production of polystyrene plastics and resins.







It is a well know fact that printers and copiers contribute to indoor pollutants such as carbon black, voc's, and ozone. Pollutants created by many common office machines are the cause of some sick building syndrome type complaints. It is important to be mindful of the use of copiers and printers in office environments. Proper amounts of fresh air intake via the AC system, good air circulation, and not having too many copiers and printers in a small enclosed area may be beneficial. Below is a wealth of information on how office equipment including the often overlooked computer may contribute to indoor air quality problems.


The International Center for Indoor Environment and Energy conducted a study on electronic equipment, including computer monitors. The group conducted sensory evaluations of offices with computers. The results showed that the air quality was significantly poorer in the offices in which computers with monitors were placed compared with empty offices. Pollutants and odors are released when normal operations heat the unit, promoting the release of odorous compounds, plastic additives, and flame-retardants used in the plastic in the screen.





While scientists and medical professionals have not yet discovered the full extent of negative health effects caused by poor indoor air quality, research has demonstrated that a number of symptoms and respiratory problems have been associated with poor indoor air. In an EPA study, thirty human subjects had a significantly increased perception of headache, mucous membrane irritation, and dryness in the eyes, nose,and throat as well as dry and tight facial skin when exposed to the operating equipment in the chamber.



The release of organic chemicals may also result in irritating odors, found unacceptable by building occupants. These odors may lead to headache, upper respiratory irritation, and nausea. Odors also provide a "fear of the unknown" among occupants, which leads to anxiety. The release of VOCs is often characterized by an array of symptoms that correspond with "sick building syndrome" including headache,nausea, general malaise, eye, nose, throat and skin irritation.





The PCs were found to be strong indoor pollution sources, even after they had been in service for 3 months. The sensory pollution load of each PC was 3.4 olf, more than three times the pollution of a standard person. The presence of PCs increased the percentage of people dissatisfied with the perceived air quality from 13 to 41% and increased by 9% the time required for text processing. Chemical analyses were performed to determine the pollutants emitted by the PCs. The most significant chemicals detected included phenol, toluene, 2-ethylhexanol, formaldehyde, and styrene. The identified compounds were, however, insufficient in concentration and kind to explain the observed adverse effects. This suggests that chemicals other than those detected, so-called stealth chemicals, may contribute to the negative effects.



PCs are an important, but hitherto overlooked, source of pollution indoors. They can decrease the perceived air quality, increase SBS symptoms and decrease office productivity. The PCs may have played a role in previously published studies on SBS and perceived air quality, where PCs were overlooked as a possible pollution source in the indoor environment. The fact that the chemicals identified in the office air and in the chamber experiments were insufficient to explain the adverse effects observed during human exposures illustrates the inadequacy of the analytical chemical methods commonly used in indoor air quality investigations. For certain chemicals the human senses are much more sensitive than the chemical methods routinely used in indoor air quality investigations. The adverse effects of PC-generated air pollutants could be reduced by modifications in the manufacturing process, increased ventilation, localized PC exhaust, or personalized ventilation systems. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration listed the following chemicals as being emitted by computers and VDTs: 




Though none of these chemicals from computers is likely to be measured in quantities that would exceed any established workplace health and safety limits, the unknown factor is how some of these chemicals may interact with each other to cause problems many years in the future. In addition, there are no established health and safety limits for exposure to chemicals for those whose bodies may be more vulnerable, such as growing children, people with existing diseases, and the elderly. However, one chemical that has recently received attention with computers is triphenyl phosphate, which is widely used as a flame retardant in the plastic of video monitors. Triphenyl phosphate is known to cause allergic reactions in some people such as itching, nasal congestion, and headaches. One study found that though emissions of triphenyl phosphate dropped off sharply after the computers were run for eight days continuously, there were still elevated levels in the air for 183 days. This translates into about two years of normal use.www.aerias.org.




The terms gasoline and gas are used interchangeably in this report to refer to automobile gas.
Almost all VOC's have more than one common source, so for example if Xylene or Toluene are found in a sample, we may say that they are paint indicators if they are found with several other paint indicator in that same sample.  However Xylene and Toluene are also gasoline indicators, so if they are found along with an abundance of other gas indicators then we can reasonably assume that they came from a gasoline source. The following are several common gas indicators that were found in a sample. When several gasoline indicators are found by a voc testing service in the same sample, then we often assume they are from a gasoline source.




Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene Also Known as (BTEX)When found together they are commonly abbreviated as BTEX. They are common gasoline indicators. Low levels of such compounds indoors can be the result of gasoline contamination of clothes and hands that occurred from building occupants pumping gas. More elevated levels may indicate the presence of petroleum gas leaks spills, dumps, or improper storage etc. Benzene is a known carcinogen.  




Other common gas indicators
4-Ethyl Toluene

1,2,4 trimethyl benzene


2 3 3 trimethyl

224 trimethylpentane











1,3,5 Trimethylbenzene