Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds, often abbreviated VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

  • Concentrations of VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products.

  • Sources include but aren’t limited to:
    1. Paints, paint strippers and other solvents
    2. Wood preservatives
    3. Aerosol sprays
    4. Cleansers and disinfectants
    5. Moth repellents and air fresheners
    6. Air fresheners
    7. Stored fuels and automotive products
    8. Hobby supplies
    9. Dry-cleaned clothing
    10. Pesticide
    11. Building materials and furnishings
    12. Office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
    13. Graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.

  • All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

  • Health Effects include:
    1. Eye, nose and throat irritation
    2. Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
    3. Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
    4. Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

  • Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include:
    1. Conjunctival irritation
    2. Nose and throat discomfort
    3. Headache
    4. Allergic skin reaction
    5. Dyspnea
    6. Declines in serum cholinesterase levels
    7. Nausea
    8. Emesis
    9. Epistaxis
    10. Fatigue
    11. Dizziness
    12. Visual disorders and memory impairment

  • The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed.

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