Last edited 10 May 2016

Volatile organic compounds VOC


[edit] Introduction

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that easily vaporise when they are at room temperature. At high levels in the air they can cause damage to human health or to the environment. They originate from a variety of classes of chemicals, including; alphatic, aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons, aldehydes, ketones, ethers, esters, alcohols, acids and amines.

VOCs are common in industry, widely used in the petrochemical industries and as industrial cleaners and solvents. Other processes that emit VOCs include; printing, surface coating, chemical manufacturing, rubber fabrication, and wood and plastic lamination. In addition to the emissions through industry, VOCs can originate from households and from road transport.

[edit] Effects of VOCs

VOCs can result in harm in a number of ways:

  • Direct damage to human health.
  • Some VOCs can result in the generation of photochemical oxidants including ozone, in the lowest level of the atmosphere. They are commonly found at ground level close to urban and industrial centres and can contribute to elevated levels of ozone.
  • Damage to the ozone layer at the level of the stratosphere.
  • Contributing to global climate change.
  • Causing offensive smells.

The inhalation of VOCs can cause a variety of health problems depending on the specific chemical and its toxicity.

Short-term exposure to high levels of VOCs can cause:

  • Irritation to the eyes, nose or throat.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Exacerbating the symptoms of asthma.

Long-term exposure to high levels of VOCs can lead to an increased risk of:

  • Cancer.
  • Liver damage.
  • Kidney damage.
  • Damage to the central nervous system.

[edit] Regulations

There are a variety of regulations in relation to VOCs, including:

[edit] Find out more

Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.

[edit] External references