Volatile Organic Chemicals


Disclaimer

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are carbon-containing compounds that tend to evaporate readily. There doesn't seem to be a universally-accepted technical definition. Some sources define VOCs as organic compounds that boil at less than 200 degrees Fahrenheit; other definitions reference a vapor pressure of greater than 0.1 millimeters of mercury under standard conditions.

The US EPA's Terms of Environment defines a VOC as "Any organic compound that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions except those designated by EPA as having negligible photochemical reactivity." If that's not confusing enough check out the defintion in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations at 40 CFR Part 51.100(s) (Link is via the Iowa Department of Natural Resources). Wikipedia adds to the fun by throwing in some international definitions.

However defined, there are many different VOCs. Environmental regulations focus on a relatively small fraction of those, generally VOCs that see wide industrial use, are breakdown products of industrial chemicals, and/or are compounds known to be particularly toxic.

There are many laboratory methods for analyzing VOCs. One of the most widespread is EPA's SW-846 Method 8260. There are several variants of this method, but they all include most of the compounds that attract the lion's share of interest at hazardous waste sites. Here is a list of the compounds included in Method 8260B:

Acetone

Acetonitrile

Acrolein

Acrylonitrile

Allyl alcohol

Allyl chloride

Benzene

Benzyl chloride

Bis(2-chloroethyl)sulfide

Bromoacetone

Bromochloromethane

Bromodichloromethane

Bromoform

Bromomethane

n-Butanol

2-Butanone

tert-Butyl alcohol

Carbon disulfide

Carbon tetrachloride

Chloral hydrate

Chlorobenzene

Chlorodibromomethane

Chloroethane

2-Chloroethanol

2-Chloroethyl vinyl ether

Chloroform

Chloromethane

Chloroprene

3-Chloropropionitrile

Crotonaldehyde

1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane

1,2-Dibromoethane

Dibromomethane

1,2-Dichlorobenzene

1,3-Dichlorobenzene

1,4-Dichlorobenzene

cis-1,4-Dichloro-2-butene

trans-1,4-Dichloro-2-butene

Dichlorodifluoromethane

1,1-Dichloroethane

1,2-Dichloroethane

1,1-Dichloroethene

cis-1,2-Dichloroethene

trans-1,2-Dichloroethene

1,2-Dichloropropane

1,3-Dichloro-2-propanol

cis-1,3-Dichloropropene

trans-1,3-Dichloropropene

1,2,3,4-Diepoxybutane

Diethyl ether

1,4-Dioxane

Epichlorohydrin

Ethanol

Ethyl acetate

Ethylbenzene

Ethylene oxide

Ethyl methacrylate

Hexachlorobutadiene

Hexachloroethane

2-Hexanone

2-Hydroxypropionitrile

Iodomethane

Isobutyl alcohol

Isopropylbenzene

Malononitrile

Methacrylonitrile

Methanol

Methylene chloride

Methyl methacrylate

4-Methyl-2-pentanone

Naphthalene

Nitrobenzene

2-Nitropropane

n-Nitroso-di-n-butylamine

Paraldehyde

Pentachloroethane

2-Pentanone

2-Picoline

1-Propanol

2-Propanol

Propargyl alcohol

B-Propiolactone

Propionitrile

n-Propylamine

Pyridine

Styrene

1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane

1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane

Tetrachloroethene

Toluene

o-Toluidine

1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene

1,1,1-Trichloroethane

1,1,2-Trichloroethane

Trichloroethene

Trichlorofluoromethane

1,2,3-Trichloropropane

Vinyl acetate

Vinyl chloride

Xylene