Last edited 04 May 2021

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:

[edit] Regulations

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

NB According to the Home Quality Mark One, TVOC (Total VOC) is the sum of the concentrations of identified and unidentified volatile organic compounds eluting between and including n-hexane and n-hexadecane on a gas chromatographic column specified as a 5 % phenyl/95 % methyl-polysiloxane column. Ref BSI. 2015. BS EN 16516. Construction productsassessment of release of dangerous substances – determination of emissions into indoor air. 2015.

Total semi-volatile organic compound (TSVOC) is the: 'Sum of the concentrations of identified and unidentified volatile organic compounds eluting between nhexadecane (excluded) and n-docosane (included) on a gas chromatographic column specified as a 5% phenyl/95% methyl polysiloxane capillary column.' Ref BREEAM UK New Construction, Non-domestic Buildings (United Kingdom), Technical Manual, SD5078: BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 3.0, published by BRE Global Limited.

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[edit] External references

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