What are Volatile Organic Compounds?

Volatile organic compounds, otherwise known as VOCs, are organic chemicals that, at room temperature, have a high vapour pressure and a low water solubility. This correlates to having a low boiling point, which causes it to be volatile.

They are a pollutant and, as such, present a genuine risk to the health if people are exposed to them for long periods of time.

Where do VOCs come from?

The majority of the VOCs in the atmosphere are biogenically created, often by plants. These don’t pose a direct risk to the health of humans as they are generally oxidised by hydroxyl radicals in the earth’s atmosphere.

However, VOCs that we encounter on a day-to-day level tend to be manmade chemicals largely produced in the manufacturing of products such as:

  • Industrial solvents
  • Refrigerants
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Air fresheners
  • Wood preservatives
  • Pesticides
  • Copiers and printers
  • Paints and paint strippers
  • Building materials

These manmade compounds pose a much larger health risk to people, and the concentration of them indoors is usually around ten times greater than when we encounter them outdoors.

What health risks do VOCs pose to humans?

Depending on the level of exposure and the nature of the VOC, there are many health risks that are associated with VOCs. These include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Loss of coordination
  • Liver damage
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Throat and nose irritation

While it hasn’t been proven categorically, over-exposure to VOCs is also suspected of causing some cancers.

What to do to reduce exposure to VOCs

If you are worried about the amount of exposure you have to VOCs, there are some steps that you can take to help reduce the risk.

By increasing ventilation, you will reduce the concentration of VOCs in the air around you and by wearing suitable PPE you will reduce the amount that you come into direct contact with. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you are using products that involve VOCs.

If your problem is on a slightly larger scale though, perhaps following a spillage or leak, it is always best to call in a professional team to get the job done. It is not worth taking risks with substances that could damage the health of your family or colleagues.

At Ideal Response we can conduct a full BIOSWEEP® of the area, which will not only remove the VOCs from the area but also remove any odour that it may have left behind. We can be onsite within 2 hours of your call, and our lines are open 24/7.

Don’t take an unnecessary risk, get in touch with Ideal Response today.

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