What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)?
VOCs are gases that are emitted by certain liquids and solids. VOCs are bad for health, some have short term while others have long lasting ill-effects. To make matters worse, VOC concentration are 10 times higher indoors than outdoors and several products that are easily available in the market emit this harmful compound. VOC monitoring is the process of testing volatile Organic Compounds in environment.
Ingredients required to make household products like paints, wax and varnishes contain VOCs, also cosmetic, disinfecting and cleaning products are found laced with VOCs. All of these products emit harmful gases while using or storing them. A study conducted by Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) found the levels of organic pollutants significantly higher indoors, and it didn’t matter whether the house was located in rural or highly industrial areas.
A hazardous observation is that the organic pollutants emitted by these household products can persist in the air long after the activity is concluded.
Primary sources of VOCs
Several household products emit organic pollutants, some of them are –
- Dry-cleaned clothing
- Wood preservatives
- Hobby supplies
- Aerosol sprays
- Paints and other solvents
- Automotive products
- Stored fuels
- Glues and adhesives
- Furnishings and building materials
- Printers and copiers
- Permanent markers
Health Effects of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)
As you can see, mostof the products are utilized by us on a daily basis and we have no knowledge its adverse effects on our health. VOCs can cause several conditions that are detrimental to one’s health, some of they are –
- Cancer in humans and animals
- Severe headaches and nausea
- Injury of the central nervous system, liver and kidney
- Nose, eyes and throat irritation
These were the health effects, following are some signs and symptoms to look out for –
- Conjunctival irritation
- Allergic skin reaction
- Throat and nose uneasiness
- Gradual decline in serum cholinesterase levels
Health effects caused by organic chemicals are mainly dependent on its toxicity level and the amount of time the person has been exposed to VOCs. Some immediate symptoms to high levels of exposure include –
- Respiratory tract and eye uneasiness
- Memory impairment
- Visual disorder
How to carry out VOC testing?
There are 2 widely used methods to VOC testing. These technologies are –
- Flame Ionization Detection
- Photo Ionization Detection
Flame Ionization Detectors (FIDs) – FIDs use a hydrogen flame to ionize the VOC. The FIDs can be burdensome to move around the designated work area as it requires a hydrogen cylinder to provide gas. In order not to receive inaccurate readings, a heated sample line should be used when extracting VOCs from the exhaust shaft, this will prevent the VOCs from condensing and giving you an accurate result.
Photo Ionization Detectors (PIDs) – The working of the PIDs and the FIDs are the same, except the former uses ultra-violet light to ionize VOCs. Another important aspect of PIDs are that they eliminate Methane while measuring VOCs, this ensures that any background levels of methane in the atmosphere can be neglected in the final reading.
Monitoring of VOC levels are imperative as if left unchecked, prolong exposure can cause damage of several internal organs and low level exposure can cause severe problems in the long run. VOC monitoring can be done using specific designed instruments, they come in different sizes, these instruments are portable or can be fixed and is apt to monitor the organic pollutant levels in your home or/and office space.
How to reduce the exposure of VOCs
- Increase the ventilation
- Don’t store any opened containers of unused paints
- Always follow the manufacturer’s directions while using a household product
- Pest management techniques to curb the need of pesticides
- Don’t purchase excess of material, buy only in limited quantities
- Keep the products away from children and pets
- Never mix household products unless instructed to on the label
- Follow the instructions specified on the label carefully
If you adhere to the above mentioned pointers then the chances of exposure to VOCs are extremely low. VOCs are bad for you, your children and your pets, it’s reported that immediately after certain activities such as paint stripping, organic pollutants shoot up to a thousand times than the background levels. Imagine the amount of damage these toxic levels of VOCs can do to your body, it’s paramount that you monitor and measure the levels of organic pollutants either by using the detectors or by hiring professional services. Trained professionals know the exact methods of VOC monitoring and will ensure that they are under control in your home or/and office space.
- Implement a organized solvent management program to reduce VOC emissions
- Identify and reduce leakages of VOCs in company
- Determine continual improvement in environmental performance of your company
- Fulfil health, safety and environmental requirements as per government’s notifications
- Optimize process flows to improve efficiency and profitability