Vapor-filled polyethylene diffusion samplers (typically used to locate discharge zones of volatile organic compound contaminated ground water beneath streams and lakes) and water-filled polyethylene diffusion bag samplers (typically used to obtain volatile organic compound concentrations in ground-water at wells) were tested to determine compound selectivity, equilibration times, and sample stability. The aqueous concentrations of several volatile organic compounds obtained from within water-filled diffusion samplers closely matched concentrations in ambient water outside the samplers. An exception was methyl-tert-butyl ether, which was detectable, but not reliably quantifiable using the diffusion samplers. The samplers equilibrated to a variety of volatile organic compounds within 24 h for vapor-filled passive diffusion vial samplers and within 48 h for water-filled passive diffusion bag samplers. Under field conditions, however, a longer equilibration time may be required to account for environmental disturbances caused by sampler deployment. An equilibrium period for both vapor- and water-filled diffusion samplers of approximately 2 weeks probably is adequate for most investigations in sandy formations. Longer times may be required for diffusion-sampler equilibration in poorly permeable sediment. The vapor-filled samplers should be capped and water from the diffusion bag samplers should be transferred to sampling vials immediately upon recovery to avoid volatilization losses of the gasses. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.