Learn what volatile organic compounds are, their sources, and how VOCs impact air quality. High levels of volatile organic compounds in the air will ultimately lead to an array of health issues. Proper ventilation, product use, product storage, and air disinfecting can reduce the impact of VOCs.
What Are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?
Volatile organic compounds (also termed VOCs) are organic chemicals that are released into the air as gases from liquids and solids. These compounds are released when the product containing the organic compound is used or stored.
VOCs is an umbrella term covering a wide variety (in the thousands) of these compounds. Some of them have short-lived health effects, while others have a more long-term impact on health.
Concentrations of volatile organic compounds are higher indoors due to a lack of ventilation. Even in an open space, VOCs can still be found but in much smaller concentrations.
Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds
Do you own a household product that contains organic chemicals? Products such as paints, waxes, varnishes, cleaners and disinfectants, and even cosmetic products contain VOCs. Fuels are also composed of organic chemicals.
Other prominent sources of VOCs are:
- Hobby supplies
- Aerosol sprays
- Degreasing products
- Wood preservatives
- Building materials
- Glues and adhesives
- Carbonless paper
This is just a short list, but it shows how many products we are exposed to daily that contain volatile organic compounds.
Impacts of Volatile Organic Compounds on Air Quality
We don’t even know it, but volatile organic compounds directly impact air quality. The degree of pollution varies because some compounds are more toxic than others. And just like with most pollutants, the health effects depend on your level of exposure to VOCs in the air.
Health Effects of VOCs in the Air
Some health effects may include upper respiratory irritation, headaches, loss of concentration, nausea, and damage to the central nervous system.
When someone is first exposed to volatile organic compounds, they might show a few immediate symptoms: headache, dizziness, eye irritation, lung irritation, visual disorders, or memory impairment.
Other symptoms brought on by the impact of volatile organic compounds on air quality might include:
- Shortness of breath
- Allergic skin reaction
You can find this entire list on the EPA’s website.
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