Study reveals that the concept of TVOC may be misused

21 September 2022

Formacare co-sponsored a scientific review by the Fraunhofer WKI Institute to get a deeper understanding of how TVOC (Total volatile organic compounds) are defined and to what extent the parameter is used correctly.

The concept of TVOC has been used for over 40 years as a decisive criterion to assess whether construction products are suitable for indoor use and air quality. The aim of this labelling and screening strategy is to help the users select appropriate products for a pleasant and healthy environment, keeping the concentration of indoor air pollutants as low as possible. This indicator has been applied among others to solid floor materials.

According to different sources, TVOC can affect your health and wellbeing, as they impact how comfortable you feel inside a building. Volatile organic compounds are organic chemicals released as a gas at room temperature. Common complaints to exposure include, and are not limited to, eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches and dizziness.

As formaldehyde is often addressed in TVOC-related discussions, Formacare wanted to understand how this concept can be used by regulators.

The Fraunhofer study report highlights a lack of harmonisation and risk of misinterpretation of the indicator's definition and implementation. Indeed, the author concluded that "there is still confusion about the exact definition and reasonable application of TVOC. Indeed, it was recognised that TVOC is not a toxicologically based parameter and is therefore only suitable for a limited number of screening purposes. Consequently, TVOC cannot be used in connection with health-related and odour-related issues."

Formacare is of the view that to define air quality in indoor environments, regulators should take into account the toxicological properties of individual substances, instead of relying on the TVOC concept. As far as formaldehyde is concerned, members of Formacare have and continue to commission state-of-the-art scienceto demonstrate its safety at work and for consumers.

The study is Open Access under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and can be downloaded here.