TVOC - Revisited
Background: TVOC (total volatile organic compounds) has been used as a sum parameter in indoor air sciences for over 40 years. In the beginning, individual VOC concentrations determined by gas chromatography were simply added together. However, several methods for calculating TVOC have become established over time. Methods: To understand the manifold definitions of TVOC, one must trace the history of indoor air sciences and analytical chemistry. Therefore, in this work, the original approaches of TVOC are searched and explained. A detailed description of the measurement methods is followed by a critical evaluation of the various TVOC values and their possible applications. The aim is to give the reader a deeper understanding of TVOC in order to use this parameter correctly and to be able to better assess published results. In addition, related sum values such as TSVOC and TVVOC are also addressed. Results: A milestone was the analytical definition of VOCs and TVOC in 1997. A list of VOCs that should at least be considered when calculating TVOC was also provided. This list represented the status at that time, is no longer up-to-date and is being updated by a European working group as part of a harmonization process. However, there is still confusion about the exact definition and reasonable application of TVOC. The signals of other sum parameters, measured with photoacoustics, flame ionization, photoionization or electrochemical sensors, are also often given under the term TVOC. Conclusions: It was recognized early 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 odor-related issues. Nevertheless, such references are repeatedly made, which has led to controversial scientific discussions and even court decisions in Germany about the correct and improper use of TVOC.