What are examples of volatile chemicals

Volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds (Abbr .: VOC or. VOCs to volatile Organic compound [s]) is the collective name for organic, i.e. carbon-containing substances that evaporate easily (are volatile) or are already present as a gas at low temperatures (e.g. room temperature). The abbreviation, which is also very frequently used NMVOCs (non methane volatile Organic compounds) the gas is methane, CH4, excluded from the group of VOCs.


The word volatile implies that substances belonging to the group of VOCs evaporate (volatilize) quickly due to their high vapor pressure or low boiling point.

According to the WHO, volatile organic compounds are classified according to their boiling point or the resulting volatility:

Table 1: Classification of VOC

description Boiling range
1. Very Volatile Organic Compound (VVOC) < 0="" bis="" 50…100°c="">
2. Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) 50… 100 to 240… 260 ° C
3. Semi volatile organic compound (SVOC) 240 ... 260 to 380 ... 400 ° C
4. Organic compound associated with particulate
matter or particulate organic matter (POM)
380 ° C

However, there is no uniform definition of what a VOC actually is (see Table 2). Some definitions actually contain information on vapor pressure, others, usually newer definitions, define VOCs via their photochemical reactivity as so-called precursor substances for the formation of ground-level ozone. In addition, certain organic substances are explicitly excluded from the VOC definition in some definitions.

Table 2: Definitions of VOCs

country definition source link
- All organic compounds (substances consisting primarily of carbon and hydrogen) with boiling points in the range from 50 to 260 ° C, with the exception of pesticides World Health Organization (WHO), quoted from: Total Volatile Organic Compounds fact sheet (NPI, Australia) [1]
Australia Any chemical compound consisting of carbon rings or chains (and containing hydrogen) with a vapor pressure greater than 2 mm Hg (0.27 kPa) at 25 ° C, excluding methane. These compounds can also contain oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbonic acid, carbonates, metal carbides and methane are explicitly excluded NPI definition for volatile organic compounds [2]
Switzerland Organic compounds with a vapor pressure of at least 0.1 mbar at 20 ° C or with a boiling point of at most 240 ° C at 1013.25 mbar Ordinance on the incentive tax on volatile organic compounds (VOCV) of November 12, 1997 (as of October 8, 2002) [3]
Europe, Germany An organic compound that has a vapor pressure of 0.01 kilopascals or more at 293.15 Kelvin or has a corresponding volatility under the respective conditions of use Directive 1999/13 / EC ... of March 11, 1999 on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds ...

31. BImschV (of August 21, 2001), Section 2, Paragraph 11 ||

Europe Any organic compound resulting from human activity, with the exception of methane, which can produce photochemical oxidants by reacting with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight Directive 2001/81 / EC ... on national emission ceilings for certain air pollutants (October 23, 2001)
Europe Organic compound with an initial boiling point not exceeding 250 ° C at a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa Directive 2004/42 / EC ... of April 21, 2004 on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain paints and varnishes ... [4]
Europe All organic compounds of anthropogenic or biogenic origin with the exception of methane, which can produce photochemical oxidants by reacting with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight Proposal for a directive ... on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (COM (2005) 447 final of 21 September 2005 [5]
Europe Chemical compounds based on carbon that are released into the air through natural sources or human activities (e.g. use of solvents, paints and varnishes, storage of fuels and their use at petrol stations, vehicle exhaust fumes) Thematic strategy for air pollution control (as of December 1, 2005) [6]
United States Any chemical compound based on carbon, with the exception of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metal carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, which are involved in photochemical reactions in the atmosphere Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 40, Part 51.100 (s), US EPA [7]

Accordingly, information on VOC emissions can only be assessed if the definition used is also given in addition to the information.


VOCs are emitted into the environment by a variety of anthropogenic and biogenic processes. Plants, animals, soils and seas are natural sources; the industrial use of solvents and traffic are among the most important anthropogenic sources.

Natural sources

All living beings (humans, animals, plants, microorganisms) emit organic compounds into the environment. For example, swamps are a huge source of methane. Many plants emit terpenes and other organic substances.

Anthropogenic sources

The use of solvents and road traffic dominate the man-made releases of volatile organic compounds. If one considers methane emissions from rice cultivation as an anthropogenic source of VOCs, this also results in a significant source. In addition to the VOCs in the atmosphere, volatile organic substances are also found in indoor air. Sources of these VOCs include building materials, furniture and carpets, cleaning agents and the consumption of tobacco products.

VOC emissions in Germany

Category: Fabric group