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What is VOC | Volatile Organic Compounds

Did you know?

Compounds like Benzene, formaldehyde, tetrachloroethylene, xylene, and methylene chloride are crucial in our daily lives. But what are these substances? These are Volatile Organic Compounds that are found in our homes that might lead to indoor air pollution. 

But what are the sources of VOC? Additionally, can such compounds actually harm our health, or can they be used to our benefit? Read ahead and find out.

Various Sources of  VOCs | Volatile Organic Compounds

In this segment, we will be sharing various sources of volatile organic compounds like

Household products

  • Paint strippers, solvents, adhesives, caulks, and paints
  • Aerosol solution
  • Air fresheners and moth repellents
  • Dry cleaning cloths
  • Preservatives for wood
  • Disinfectants and cleaners
  • Automotive and store fuel products
  • Pesticides
  • Vinyl and carpet flooring
  • Foam and upholstery
  • Cosmetic products
  • Gasoline and fuel



Cooking Activities

  • Cooking
  • Smoking
  • Wood burning


Other Components

Copiers and printers in the office

  • Furnishings and building materials
  • Copiers and printers in the office
  • Carbonless paper for copying
  • Correctional fluids
  • Craft and graphics materials
  • Photographic and permanent marker solution


Different Health Effects Due to Exposure to VOCs

Different Health Effects

The health risk that happens due to organic compound inhalation depends on the quantity, duration, and frequency of the VOCs. Inhaling low VOC levels for a longer time might enhance the health risk for some people. Other studies show that VOC exposure might make health conditions worse for people with asthma or sensitivity to any chemical reactions. VOCs are a group of chemicals with their level of potentiality and toxicity for hurting your health. Some of the common health effects due to VOC exposures are as follows.

  • Irritation in the throat, nose, and eye
  • Nausea, headaches, and coordination loss
  • Cancer in animals and suspected causes of cancer in humans also.
  • Liver, central nervous system, and kidney failure
  • Irritation in the conjunctivitis
  • Allergic skin in the skin
  • Dyspnea
  • Emesis and epistaxis
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Lower levels of serum cholinesterase
  • Worsening of asthma patients

The effect of VOCs on human health varies from toxic to those with little or no known effect. Some of the most instant effects that people have when exposed to some common organic compounds include

  • Irritation in the respiratory tract and eye
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Memory impairment and visual disorders

Source: https://www.epa.gov/


Safe Level for the VOC Exposure

To protect your health from the volatile Organic Compounds, you should restrict the product and material exposure containing the VOCs. According to numerous studies, there is an average presence of 2 to 5 times higher inside the house than the outdoors. You might face 1000 times more VOC exposure indoors than outside when you are doing some specific activities like painting. If you are facing any health-related problems due to VOC exposure, then always try to decrease the VOC level in the home. If the symptom exists, consult with your physician to eliminate various health problems with similar signs. Most of the time, research is carried out on single chemical effects. But we may never know what will be the health effects of different chemical combinations. Since the VOC toxicity levels vary according to every individual chemical, there is no specific standard for the VOC group’s harmful effects. People who have various respiratory problems like asthma or children or adults with high sensitivity to chemicals might be more vulnerable to illness and irritation from the VOC.


How to Reduce VOC Exposure?

How to Reduce VOC Exposure

Below are some of the best ways through which you can surely reduce VOC exposure in your surroundings.

Follow the instructions on the labels carefully.

The products that include potentially toxic components include a warning for reducing the volatile organic compounds exposure. For instance, if the label indicates that you have to use or open the product in a well-ventilated space, go outside your house or an area well equipped with the exhaust fans facility. You can also open up the windows to offer a maximum area for entering the outdoor air as much as possible.


Purchase in Limited Quantities

If you are using a product seasonally or occasionally, like paint strippers, kerosene, paints, or gasoline, purchase only the amount you will want at this moment.


Reject half-full old containers of chemicals with complete cautious

Reject half-full old containers of chemicals with complete cautious

Hazardous gases might leak even from various closed containers. Thus if you have any container with a potentially dangerous chemical that might leak, then you have to throw them with full caution. It will decrease the chances of VOC exposure in the home. Also, ensure that the containers should not only be kept in an open and spacious area but also be out of any children’s reach. Do not toss the containers into the garbage bins with full force. Identify if any organization or local government is collecting toxic chemicals or not. If there is any option available, take help from them and dispose of your chemical containers carefully. If no such alternative is present in your locality, then eliminate the containers with complete care.


Keep the Methylene Chloride Emissions to a Minimum

Various consumer or household goods like adhesive removers, aerosol spray paints, and paint strippers might contain methylene chloride that might cause cancer in the animals. Methylene Chloride gets converted to carbon monoxide inside the body and might display symptoms linked with carbon monoxide exposure. Carefully read all the levels that might contain health hazard cautions and data, along with instructions for proper use. Thus use products with methylene chloride only outside the house whenever possible and inside only if you have a large and spacious room.


Other Precautions

You can also decrease the VOC exposure by

  • Enhancing the ventilation while implementing the products that release VOCs
  • Exceed or meet any precautions on the label
  • One of the most common VOCs is Formaldehyde which is one of the few pollutants that you can readily measure.
  • Recognize and eliminate the sources if possible
  • If it is impossible to terminate the sources, then decrease the VOC exposure by implementing the sealant on the exposed paneling surfaces and other furniture.
  • Implementation of integrated pest management processes for reducing the pesticide usage
  • Ensure you have a lot of fresh air while utilizing these products
  • Implement the products in your house according to the instruction of the company
  • Eliminate little or unused containers safely.
  • Keep the products out of the pet and children’s reach.
  • Do not mix any household care products if there are no instructions for them on the label.


Restrict Benzene Exposure to the least

Benzene is famous as a human carcinogen, and the primary benzene sources inside the house are as follows.

  • Storage fuel
  • Emissions in the attached automobile garages
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Paint supplies

Actions that will limit benzene exposure in the environment include:

  • Keeping maximum ventilation inside the house during the painting
  • Eliminating the special fuels and paint supplies immediately with full precaution
  • Getting rid of the smoke inside the house


Restrict the perchloroethylene emissions from the dry cleaned clothes to the lowest

Perchloroethylene is one of the most common chemicals used for dry cleaning. According to laboratory studies, it causes cancer in some animals. In recent studies, it has been seen that people inhale lower levels of this chemical when they are wearing any garments after dry cleaning them. Dry cleaning companies re-imprison the perchloroethylene during the dry cleaning procedure so that the owners can save money by reutilizing it. They eliminate more chemicals during the finishing and pressing processes. However, some cleaners do not remove the entire chemicals from the clothes while cleaning them. You can reduce this chemical exposure by picking up the clothes from the dry cleaner. If there is any strong odor, then do not receive the product until they are odorless.

Read Here: How to Do Dry Cleaning at Home


Wrapping it Up

To add to what we have said above, there are numerous ways of getting rid of toxic chemical volatile organic compounds to enhance the air quality and your health. Always take proper precautions before using such components and discard them after use. Remember inhaling a large amount of Volatile Organic Compound might result in poor and adverse health conditions. Thus implement strict regulations with these compounds and always use them in open or large spaces.




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