The release of chloroform, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, tetrachloromethane, trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene from an organic rich spruce forest soil was studied in laboratory incubation experiments by dynamic headspace analysis, thermodesorption and gas chromatography. Performance parameters are presented for the dynamic headspace system. For spruce forest soil, the results showed a significant increase in chloroform concentration in the headspace under aerobic conditions over a period of seven days, whereas the concentration of the other compounds remained fairly constant. A biogenic formation of chloroform is suggested, whereas for the other compounds anthropogenic sources are assumed. The addition of trichloroacetic acid to the soil increased the release of chloroform from the soil. It is, therefore, suggested that trichloroacetic acid also contributed to the formation of chloroform. Under the experimental conditions, the spruce forest soil released chloroform concentrations corresponding to a rate of 12 mu g m(-2) day(-1). Data on chloroform production rates are presented and compared with literature results, and possible formation mechanisms for chloroform are discussed. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.