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Analysis of VOC

By Melissa Reeves, Sales Representative

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) pose potential safety and environmental concerns. VOCs are emitted from products and materials that contain or are manufactured with volatile components. These components are emitted as gases over time. When present above allowable levels, VOCs can be extremely detrimental to health.

Regulations and Requirements
Due to the potential health and environmental concerns that VOCs pose, various federal and state regulatory agencies have implemented industry standards that require products to be tested for compliance. Among these agencies are the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International). The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) requires pharmaceutical products undergo testing for residual solvents within USP <467>. Similarly, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) contains guidance on the amounts of residual solvents that are considered safe in pharmaceuticals and medical devices. If manufacturing takes place in a regulated environment, specific methods and techniques may be required.The experts at Impact Analytical stay up to date on industry standards and regulatory requirements and can test against various VOC methods.

Common Methods for Analysis
The published methods for the determination of VOC content utilize several techniques. Gravimetric techniques and thermogravimetric techniques are utilized in numerous published methods for a fast quantitative determination of the overall amount of volatile compounds without any qualitative identification. As such, gravimetric techniques are among the most cost and time efficient in determining VOC content. One such technique is CARB Method 310. CARB Method 310 determines the weight percent of volatiles in consumer products and aerosol coatings by subtracting water content and any exempt compounds stated in the method from the total content of volatiles (Method 310, 2018). Exempt compounds are those that do not fit the definition for a VOC Testing laboratories, like Impact Analytical, are able to provide VOC content per CARB Method 310 at a low cost with a fast turnaround when the water content and exempts are provided with the product.

Similarly, EPA Method 24 can be used to determine volatile content of waterborne, multicomponent, and ultraviolet radiation-cured coatings. Within EPA Method 24, several ASTM methods are referenced, which include gravimetric techniques as well as gas chromatography techniques (Method 24, 2017).

Gas chromatography techniques are utilized for qualitative identification of VOCs in addition to determining the level at which they are present. Due to this additional identification phase, techniques utilizing gas chromatography are typically more time and cost intensive. California’s Proposition 65 contains a list of chemicals of concern, many of which can be identified through testing by gas chromatography. Products that are distributed within the State of California that are manufactured using chemicals on the list must be tested in order to verify their compliance and disclose their presence to California’s consumers. While California’s Proposition 65 list is extensive, product manufacturers can minimize costs by having laboratories test only for compounds that may be present in their product.

Numerous industry standards and regulations are available for the determination of VOC levels in products and raw materials. The specific application of techniques used is dependent upon regulatory requirements and the methodology used. When information on potential volatile and exempt compounds that a product may contain is provided, Impact Analytical is able to minimize cost and time constraints while delivering the VOC data needed by product manufacturers to ensure their product is not harmful to consumers or the environment.

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