Volatile Organic Compounds
Investigate, Locate, and Remove VOC Sources
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects.
If these chemical contaminant sources are not controlled, indoor environmental quality problems can arise, even if the building’s ventilation system is properly designed and well maintained.
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- cleaners and disinfectants
- wall coverings
- furniture and furnishings
- upholstery, fabric materials
- moth repellents
- air fresheners, and other scented products (candles)
- cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants
- paints, paint strippers, varnishes, finishes, and stains
- adhesives, caulks, sealants, and coatings
- vinyl flooring, carpet, pressed wood products
- plumbing adhesives and sealants
- tobacco smoke
- dry-cleaned clothing
- arts and crafts products – glues, permanent markers, photographic solutions, etc.
- wood burning stoves
- office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
- stored fuel oil, gasoline for lawn care or recreational equipment
- carrier solvents for pesticide/insecticide applications
- vehicle exhaust
- wood burning
- oil and gas extraction and processing industrial emissions
- Freons from air conditioner or refrigeration appliances
No federally enforceable standards have been set for VOCs in non-industrial settings (aka your house).
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. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.
- eye, nose, and throat irritation
- headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea
- allergic skin reaction
- labored breathing
- bleeding from the nose
Not all VOCs have all these health effects, though many have several. Details on the health effects of each specific VOC can be found in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Toxic Substances Portal.