Volatile organic compounds emitted by growing intact oilseed rape plants have been detected using an entrainment apparatus enabling volatile headspace analysis by thermal desorption coupled to capillary gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. In total, 22 volatile compounds were identified as being emitted during the flowering period. The main constituents were α-farnesene (a sesquiterpene); β-myrcene (a monoterpene); linalool (a monoterpene alcohol) and the ‘green leaf’ volatile (E)-3-hexen-1-ol acetate. These compounds constituted between 50 and 87% (mean 68%) of the total volatiles emitted in all of the entrainments carried out with flowering oilseed rape plants. The remaining constituents consisted of a range of compounds including other terpenoids, the characteristic ‘green leaf’ volatile (E)-3-hexen-1-ol, short chain alcohols and ketones, organic sulphides and nitrogen-containing compounds. These were generally present as minor constituents but some plant entrainments revealed that higher relative amounts could be emitted. This was particularly apparent for dimethyl disulphide, 3-methyl-2-pentanone, 3-hydroxy-2-butanone, sabinene, isomyrcenol and (E)-3-hexen-1-ol. The possible role of the 22 compounds in respiratory mucosa and conjunctiva irritation associated with airborne releases from oilseed rape is discussed.