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Improving the Reliability of VOC Emissions Testing of Building Products



Cynthia H. Reed, Andrew K. Persily, Steven J. Nabinger, John C. Little, Steven Cox


Manufacturers of building materials and furnishings are increasingly using emissions chamber testing to demonstrate low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from their products and to qualify for low-emitting certification and sustainable labeling programs. Currently, however, there are limited standard test methods developed by voluntary consensus standard bodies for measuring VOC emission rates in chambers, which has led to concerns about the reliability of the test results. Round robin testing conducted to date has revealed significant inconsistencies in VOC emission profiles of the same product between testing laboratories with no means to establish the accuracy of the results. To address these inter-laboratory discrepancies and improve the reliability of product emissions testing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has identified the following technical strategies: 1) standardize emissions test methods; 2) develop proficiency standards for emissions testing, including standard reference materials; and 3) create a laboratory accreditation program. An initial plan for these strategies has been developed, and progress has been made on the development of a reference material to calibrate VOC emission rate facilities. To this end, NIST is working with Virginia Tech, who have synthesized a prototype reference material by loading or charging a polymer film with a specific VOC in the presence of supercritical carbon dioxide. The existence of a reference material to verify the accuracy of emission tests is expected to improve the reliability of the VOC emission rate data that are currently being used to make healthbased purchasing decisions.
ASHRAE IAQ Applications


Reed, C. , Persily, A. , Nabinger, S. , Little, J. and Cox, S. (2007), Improving the Reliability of VOC Emissions Testing of Building Products, ASHRAE IAQ Applications, [online], (Accessed April 22, 2024)
Created October 1, 2007, Updated February 17, 2017