Sampling Soils for Determination of VOCs

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The Draft for Public Comment (DPC) of BS 10176: Taking soil samples for determination of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — Specification is expected to be available for comment from 1 July.

This new standard is intended to raise the reliability of sampling soils for determination VOCs in the UK by introducing methods in common use in other countries including Australia and the United States for over twenty years. Its introduction will have profound impact on how companies carry out sampling for VOCs and require close cooperation between those carrying out field work and analytical laboratories. It has been known for decades that the methods commonly used in the UK do not provide reliable results and can lead to loss of VOCs during sampling and consequentially underestimation of potential risks to humans and other receptors.

BS10176 will be a standard specification which means that it requirements must be closely followed to claim compliance. It thus differs from other standards such as BS 10175 and the BS ISO 18400 series which provide guidance and permit, and indeed rely on, the user using their judgement when applying them.

Laboratories are required to provide pre-prepared sample containers prepared to the specification provided in the standard and these are to be used in the field in strict accordance with the procedures described in the standard. Samples must be transported to the analytical laboratory in strict accordance with the prescribed method.

It is expected that in future any VOC results not obtained in accordance with BS 10176 could be rejected by assessors and regulators.

It is essential, because of the potentially significant impact on how site investigations are carried out, that potential users including laboratories properly scrutinise the draft standard and raise any issues they consider important using the BSI commenting system which is expected to be live from 1 July to 31 August (use link – Copies of the draft standard are available to AGS members from AGS.

The Drafting Panel for the new standard is chaired by Geraint Williams of ALS (, a member of the AGS CLWG and AGS laboratories group. Mike Smith, a member of the CLWG, is also on the drafting panel.

Article provided by Mike Smith of M A Smith Environmental Consultancy.