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
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. Mendell, M. J. (2007). Indoor residential chemical emissions as risk factors for respiratory and allergic effects in children: A review. Indoor Air, 17(4), 259-277.