Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemical off gases from a variety of different solid and liquid sources. VOCs are produced continuously and their concentrations are typically much higher indoors than outdoors.   Usually, the presence of a VOC can be recognized by it’s odour, but there are a number of odourless VOCs that can really harm an individual subject to extended exposure. An example of a well-known VOC without odour is radon and one with odour is formaldehyde. VOCs in the indoor environment do cause harm, and the affects of long periods of exposure can be severe. A very large number of organic compounds used in residences, industry, commerce, and institutions have gases classified as a VOC.

Sources of VOCs:

Building materials, furnishings, paints, solvents, cleaning materials, aerosols, pesticides, beauty products, tobacco smoke, certain solvents used in dry cleaning, and office printers and photocopiers are all sources of VOCs.  Formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, benzene, acetone produce gasses that are classified as being a VOCs.  Radon gas is also recognized as a common VOC in many indoor environments.

Harm Effects:

The exposure to VOCs can cause harm to an individual; yet, the severity of harm and the reaction to its presence will vary by individual.  Short-term health effects of high-level exposure can be irritation to the eyes, nose or throat, headaches, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, and asthma attack.  Long-term exposure to VOCs increases the risks of cancer and adversely affects vital organs such as lungs, kidney, liver, and the brain.