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Sampling and Analysis Guidance for VOCs
This page provides links to various guidance resources with information on sampling and analysis for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
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The National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) and National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL) of EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) is conducting research and providing technical assistance to EPA program offices, regional offices, and states in the area of vapor intrusion. ORD's Research on Vapor Intrusion page can be found here.
SW-846 Manual – Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste, Physical/Chemical Methods: EPA's Office of Solid Waste's official compendium of analytical methods that have been evaluated and approved for use in complying with the RCRA regulations.
Method 8260C: Volatile Organic Compounds by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) (Revision 3, August 2006) (PDF) (92 pp, 324 K)
Method for determining volatile organic compounds in a variety of solid waste matrices.
Media Specific Resources
Sampling and Analysis for VOCs in Soil and Groundwater
VOC Sampling and Analysis
EPA’s Technology Innovation Program website includes links to methods for sampling and analyzing soil and groundwater for VOCs including EPA’s Method 5035A, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guidance and technical reports and ASTM Method D4547-98.
Composite Sampling for Soil VOC Analysis (PDF) (31 pp, 207 K)
Quality Assurance Project Plan Prepared by Lockheed Martin Environmental Services for the EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL) under Project LV470850 (4-70.85), October 1, 2004.
Groundwater Sampling Guidelines for Superfund and RCRA Project Managers (PDF) (53 pp, 631 KB) (OSWER EPA 542-S-02-001 May 2002)
This document provides a summary of recommended groundwater sampling procedures for a variety of chemicals including VOCs.
EPA Region 4 Groundwater Sampling (PDF) (32 pp, 534 K) (SESDPROC-301-R2, October 2011)
This document describes general and specific procedures, methods and considerations to be used and observed when collecting groundwater samples for field screening or laboratory analysis. It includes discussion of considerations for collecting groundwater samples for VOC analysis.
Sampling Soil Gas
If buildings are present in the area of concern, the most relevant location to collect soil gas measurements is directly below the building foundation ("sub-slab"). If buildings are not currently present in the area of concern, then the most relevant location to collect soil gas measurements is in subsurface soil at a depth that is similar to the depth of a potential future foundation.
Soil-Gas Measurement (PDF) (3 pp, 386 K)
A fact sheet developed by EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory.
Comparison of Geoprobe® PRT and AMSGVP Soil-Gas Sampling Systems with Dedicated Vapor Probes in Sandy Soils at the Raymark Superfund Site (PDF) (79 pp, 4.7 MB, About PDF) (ORD EPA/600/R-06/111, November 2006)
EPA soil-gas sampling study conducted at the Raymark Superfund site in Stratford, CT. A brief summary of this study is also provided in the July 2007 issue of Technology News and Trends.
EPA subslab testing using TO-17 (PDF) (50 pp, 1.2 MB, About PDF)
Presentation by the Office of Research and Development (ORD) at the U.S. EPA Technical Support Project Semi-Annual Meeting in Denver, CO in June 2002.
Sampling and Analysis of Air
In practice, Region 8 recommends collecting indoor air samples over a 24-hour period using time-weighted techniques. A recommended approach involves the use of specially-prepared stainless steel canisters, by which air samples are collected for a specified time period (24-hours) at a determined flow rate. Samples are generally then sent for off-site fixed laboratory analysis.
In many cases, direct measurement of concentration levels for the exposure medium of potential concern has less uncertainty than predictions of concentration levels based on mathematical fate and transport models. In the case of indoor air, the direct measurement approach is complicated by that fact that there are other sources of VOCs in indoor air besides intrusion from soil or groundwater, so interpretation of measured values may require a careful comparison of "background" levels. This page provides more information on evaluating background sources of VOCs in indoor air.
Another method for obtaining real time indoor air data is the Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer (TAGA), an on-site mobile lab equipped with a GC/MS. The TAGA mobile lab provides real time monitoring for VOCs with sensitive analytical detection limits and a high correlation with 24 hour Summa canisters. More information about the TAGA mobile lab is provided in the following publication and video:
- Using a Novel Field Analytical Technique to Address Vapor Intrusion Issues in an Accurate, Rapid, and Cost Effective Manner. (PDF) (16 pp, 1.82 MB, About PDF)
- The TAGA Team. Short video describing the capabilities of the TAGA mobile laboratory in support of EPA’s Environmental Response Team.
When sampling indoor air as part of a vapor intrusion study, outdoor ambient air samples should usually be collected as well to characterize site-specific outdoor air background conditions.
Standardized Sampling Methods for VOCs in Air
A set of 17 peer-reviewed, standardized methods for the determination of volatile, semi-volatile, and selected toxic organic pollutants in air are available here and include the following:
Compendium Method TO-14A: Determination of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) In Ambient Air Using Specially Prepared Canisters with Subsequent Analysis by Gas Chromotography (PDF) (90 pp, 1000 K, About PDF)
- Compendium Method TO-15: Determination of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Air Collected in Specially-Prepared Canisters and Analyzed by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) (PDF) (67 pages, 890 K)
Sampling and analytical procedures for the measurement of VOCs, applicable to most conditions encountered in the collection of ambient air samples into canisters.
- Supplement to EPA Compendium Method TO-15 – Reduction of Method Detection Limits to Meet Vapor Intrusion Monitoring Needs (April 2004, revised June 2006)
Citation for guidance document on reducing the method detection limit (MDL) for 1,1-dichloroethene (1,1-DCE) and for other VOCs from 0.5 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) to much lower concentrations.
- Compendium Method TO-17: Determination of Volatile Organic Compounds in Ambient Air Using Active Sampling Onto Sorbent Tubes (PDF) (53 pages, 309 K)
Sorbent tube monitoring method for the determination of VOCs in ambient air at 0.5 to 25 parts per billion (ppbv) concentration levels.