The global pandemic has forced us all to pay more attention to the air around us, whether in our home, office or outside. Maintaining high standards of indoor air quality (IAQ) is not only important to limit the potential spread of infectious diseases but also to prevent the build-up of indoor air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can significantly impact the health of occupants. One of the simplest and most effective ways to achieve this is by specifying materials which are recognised as low emitters of VOCs under schemes such as the Eurofins Indoor Air Comfort standard.
VOCs can be emitted by a number of materials found in a typical indoor environment, including everything from cleaning products to carpets and paints. The compounds are described as ‘volatile’ as they have a fairly low boiling point. This causes their molecules to become more active at room temperature, allowing them to spread into the surrounding air.
The compounds have been linked with a variety of health issues. Depending on the length and concentration of exposure, these can vary from relatively minor issues – such as dizziness and shortness of breath – to serious impacts including damage to internal organs and the central nervous system.
Whilst an effective ventilation strategy can help to reduce VOC concentrations, it is generally recommended that the first step should be to use materials which are identified as low emitters. The Eurofins Indoor Air Comfort (IAC) programme helps specifiers to quickly and easily identify products which meet these requirements.
The Eurofins IAC has been created to harmonise the criteria within the various VOC emissions standards across Europe. It is split into two levels:
Standard Certification – Identifying that the product complies with minimum mandatory VOC emissions standards within European countries including France, Germany and Italy.
Gold Certification – This recognises the product is also compliant with many of the most demanding voluntary performance standards and can be recognised as being an outstanding material according to the VOC Indoor Air Quality emissions regulations. Eurofins IAC Gold certified products meet the compliance requirements for specifying low-VOC emission solutions within BREEAM, Well Building, LEED and SKA Rating.
In order to achieve Eurofins IAC Gold certification, production facilities are first assessed by an independent inspector who has been approved by Eurofins. The assessor looks at all factors which may affect emissions from the product, such as archival changes in a product’s formulation. During the inspection, samples of products are taken for emissions testing.
Once emissions testing is completed, the results are then sent to the manufacturer along with a detailed report from the inspection, allowing corrective action to be taken where necessary. If the test results suggest compliance and no issues are raised in the inspection report, then the product is issued with certification.
Critically, Eurofins requires manufacturers to engage in a process of continuous testing and auditing. Recently certified products are subjected to emission testing and production site inspections every year to ensure low emissions. As a result, installers and specifiers can have confidence that the performance and quality of certified products will be maintained over time.
A growing number of construction products are now certified under the Eurofins IAC Gold programme including Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation. In addition, work is also under way to consider VOC emissions within the harmonised European Standards for the CE Marking of products.
A healthier future
As we move towards a net zero carbon built environment, our buildings are set to become increasingly airtight. For this reason, the need to control VOC concentrations and to maintain high levels of IAQ is only expected to grow in the coming years. By specifying products which are low emitters, it should be possible to create healthier environments for occupants to live and work.