Committee for Health-related Evaluation of Building Products (AgBB)
Building products can contribute significantly through their emissions to the pollution of indoor air by volatile organic compounds (VOC). The Committee for Health-related Assessment of Building Products (AgBB) developed test criteria and assessment standards for a uniform and comprehensible health assessment of building product emissions in Germany. These are published in an assessment scheme for VOC emissions from building products relevant to indoor air. The evaluation scheme sets health-related quality standards for the manufacture and use of building products. It is also intended to support the development of particularly low-emission products.
Different groups of building products emit different VOCs. It is important that all building products are assessed according to the same health criteria, independent of the source. This ensures equal treatment, legal certainty and transparency for both manufacturers and users.
In addition to building product emissions, other sources can adversely affect indoor air quality through their pollutant emissions. These include furnishings, lifestyle habits (e.g. smoking tobacco, burning candles, cooking especially with gas flames, cleaning) and also humans themselves by exhaling carbon dioxide and moisture. For the health assessment of the air quality in an indoor environment, the German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values (AIR) develops assessment standards for various pollutants in the form of guide values or hygienic guide values for indoor air.
The AgBB was established in 1997 by the resolutions of the Conference of Ministers of Health and the Conference of Ministers of Construction by the Länder Working Group "Environment-Related Health Protection" (LAUG) of the Working Group of the Supreme State Health Authorities (AOLG). In addition to the state health authorities, the German Environment Agency, the Deutsche Institut für Bautechnik (DIBt), the Conference of Ministers and Senators of the Federal States responsible for Urban Development, Construction and Housing (ARGEBAU), the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) are represented in the AgBB.
The office of the AgBB has been established at the German Environment Agency in section II 1.3 "Indoor hygiene, health-related environmental impacts".
Health-related assessment of emissions of volatile organic compounds from building products
The criteria of the AgBB assessment scheme is set to prevent health hazards from building product emissions for the general population in the indoor environment. Exposure over the entire lifetime is considered. The aim is to assess the total VOC emission and all emitted VOC substances from building products.
The principle for assessing material emissions from building products in the AgBB scheme is to consider the toxicological significance of the individual substances. These are identified and weighted according to their health relevance. For the toxicological assessment, the AgBB uses scientifically recognised information already available from the technical literature covering knowledge about dose-response relationships. The evaluation criterion for the VOC individual substance is the lowest concentration of interest (LCI, German NIK). The LCI values define the concentration level above which adverse health effects are likely to occur.
The AgBB concept also considers the following criteria
- R-value (hazard or risk index),
- TVOC (sum of the concentrations of volatile organic compounds),
- TSVOC (sum of the concentrations of the semi volatile organic compounds) and
- Sum of the unidentified and unevaluated substances (VOC without NIK value).
The procedure for product testing, its background and assessment with 185 LCI values can be found explained in detail in the AgBB assessment scheme of 2021*.
The AgBB evaluation scheme is continuously developed on the basis of new findings from research and science and through professional exchange with all parties involved.
The annexes contain the current version of the AgBB assessment scheme with supplementary information, the earlier versions of the assessment scheme, the results of the expert discussions held and current publications.
* At its meeting on 20 February 2008, the AgBB decided that when revised versions of the AgBB evaluation scheme and updated LCI lists are published, the relevant previous version will continue to apply for one more year. This was done in order to give the manufacturers concerned sufficient time to adapt their products to the new requirements.
The reference values for the health-related assessment of individual substances in product emission testing, the so-called LCI values, are developed exclusively by the LCI working group of the AgBB and updated every two years. To prevent misinterpretation, they are only published within the complete text of the AgBB assessment scheme. Updates are identified by the year of their publication. Currently discussed or agreed changes of LCI values and new substances under consideration are given in the list of prospective LCI value changes to your information before the next update. For substances not yet included in the list of LCI values, it is possible to apply for LCI values to be established by submitting available data to the AgBB (LCI-application form). The same applies to well-founded requests for modification of an existing LCI value.
Sensory testing (odour testing) of building products
Since the introduction of the evaluation scheme for VOC emissions from building products, the AgBB has intended to assess the odour-perceptible substances emitted by building products. In recent years, the methodology for measuring odour emissions has been developed, refined and standardised in the ISO 16000-28. A 1st workshop on sensory testing of building products took place on the 5th of December 2011 at the Deutsche Institut für Bautechnik (DIBt). During this workshop all relevant stakeholders (manufacturers, measurement institutes, regulators, and scientists) discussed about the existing experience in the measurement and evaluation of odours from building products. The course of the discussion and the presentations can be downloaded here (in German).
As a result of this expert meeting, it was decided to start a pilot phase in cooperation with the manufacturers to check to what extent the objective assessment of odours from building products can be made. Two round robin tests with various laboratories were carried out on behalf of the German Environment Agency. The pilot phase for the introduction of the odour testing from construction products ended in summer 2015. The results were presented and discussed in a symposium on 1.-2.10.2015 at the German Environment Agency in Dessau (in German). Within an overall view of the available findings, the AgBB introduced the sensory testing of building product emissions as a new criterion in the updated version of the evaluation scheme in August 2018. However, the application of the 'sensory testing' criterion is not binding but constitutes a voluntary instrument.
Workshops and conferences
The AgBB evaluation scheme was presented and discussed in expert meetings with all relevant stakeholders. In May 2001, a 1st expert meeting was held to introduce the emission measurement of building products. In order to exchange the experiences gained during the introduction phase (2002-2004) of the AgBB evaluation scheme, a 2nd expert meeting was held on 25 November 2004 at the Deutsche Institut für Bautechnik (DIBt). This meeting was attended by 70 representatives from industry, manufacturers' and consumers' associations, measurement institutes, authorities and ministries.
In June 2007, a two-day international conference on "Construction Products and Indoor Air Quality" was held in Berlin as part of the German EU Council Presidency. More than 100 participants from 16 countries discussed previous experiences with improving indoor air quality, various emission-related quality labels and strategies for product optimisation, and emphasised the need for European harmonisation in the area of building product emissions. The German Environment Agency has taken up the positive feedback during and after the conference and initiated a European harmonisation initiative for assessment procedures of construction product emissions.