Effects of Volatile Organic Compounds

Topics: Ozone, Volatile organic compound, Smog Pages: 7 (2000 words) Published: September 9, 2013
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere. According to EPA's Terms of the Environment, a volatile organic compound is "any organic compound that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions except those designated by EPA as having negligible photochemical reactivity." VOC can also stand for the term “volatile organic chemical”. VOCs may be natural or synthetic. Like organic chemicals in general, there are millions of different compounds which may be classified as VOCs. The compounds the nose detects as smells are generally VOCs. Volatile organic compounds are produced naturally through biological mechanisms such as metabolism. They are found in everything from paints and coatings to underarm deodorant and cleaning fluids and are a major concern of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state air quality boards all over the world. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors and are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. EPA's Office of Research and Development's "Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study" (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas.  TEAM studies indicated that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed. Releases, intentional or not, of VOCs may affect the environment or human health, depending on the particular chemicals involved, the quantities and concentrations, and the relative locations of "receptors" which are sensitive to the particular chemical. If these everyday materials have adverse health effects on its users then it is necessary to at least make known and if possible quantify these effects. Below are some VOCs and their associated effects: |Chlorofluorocarbons |Causes damage on the ozone layer | |Limonene |Causes sensory irritation symptoms in an indoor environment due to its contribution to the ozone| | |emissions when it reacts with nitrogen oxides. | |Aromatic benzene |Cause lung diseases when exposed to it for long periods indoors since its carcinogenic(emitted | | |from exalted cigarette smoke) | |Formaldehydes |Causes sick building syndrome irritation when one is remains in an indoor environment(emissions| | |from paints, tiles etc.) for a long period of time | |Styrene |Also causes sensory irritation symptoms in an indoor environment due to its contribution to | | |ozone emissions. |

VOCs have been found to be a major contributing factor to ozone, a common...

Bibliography: U.S Environmental Protection Agency. (2009, October 27). Volatile Organic Compounds | Indoor Air Quality. Retrieved December 4, 2009, from U.S Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html
Wang, S., Ang, H. M., & Tade, M. O. (2007). Volatile organic compounds in indoor environment and photocatalytic oxidation: State of the art. Environment International, 33(5), 694-705.
Destaillats, H., Maddalena, R. L., Singer, B. C., Hodgson, A. T., & McKone, T. E. (2008) Indoor pollutants emitted by office equipment: A review of reported data and information needs. Atmospheric Environment, 42(7), 1371-1388.
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