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How do Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) affect the Air quality around us?

An Image of a factory chimneys releasing thick smoke into the air in the evening sunset.

Introduction to VOC

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals having very high vapour pressure at room temperature. This means that these chemicals have a low boiling point resulting in the constituents of the chemical evaporating quickly at room temperature. This leads to a high possibility of the sample molecules in the surrounding air if exposed to the environment. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) represent a broad class of chemicals, many of which can be found in indoor air, including residential indoor air. VOCs are derived from various sources like cleaning products, cooking practices, fragrances and fresheners, hobbies and at-home work behaviour.
VOCs are typically used at home and work, so exposure to airborne VOCs is inevitable. Drinking water is also an everyday source of exposure due to industrial discharge and disinfection processes. Organic compounds are chemicals that contain carbon and are found in all living things. They generally contain hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulphur, or nitrogen, primarily released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. VOCs are also emitted from oil and gas fields and diesel exhaust. Additional release sources are paints, glues, and other products used and stored at home and work.
When mixed with nitrogen oxides, VOCs respond to form ground-level ozone, or smog, which contributes to climate change. Gasoline, benzene, formaldehyde, and tetrachloroethylene (used in dry cleaning) are also rich sources of VOCs. Irritation to skin and eye, sensitization, central nervous system effects, increased risk of cancer, and liver and kidney effects have been reported in experimental animals and humans. Regulatory agencies use the results of these studies and set safe limits for each VOC that is considered safe for human exposure.

Classification of VOC

Many VOCs are relatively harmless, and humans coexisted with them for over centuries. Decomposition of vegetation and trees like eucalyptus are sources of naturally emitted VOC. But other anthropogenic sources are harmful and could cause serious health issues. VOCs are present in a wide variety of chemicals used these days. VOC is present in perfumes' odour and air fresheners' scents, cleaning supplies, and disinfectants. It is also found in the smells emanating from various chemical formulations like paints, varnishes, thinners, solvents, building materials and also from pesticides, fuels, and automotive products, to name a few.

Effect of VOC on human health

All VOCs are not dangerous to health, but the ones that cause damage or have the potential to cause health effects are mostly volatile compounds generated from anthropogenic sources. Generally, health effects due to VOC exposure can be based on the period and quantum of exposure. For example, situations in which a person is exposed long-term cause chronic health effects. At the same time, short-term exposure may lead to unpleasant situations with no noticeable health effects.
Indoor concentrations of VOCs are 2-5 times higher than outdoors. VOC concentrations can be more raised indoors due to insufficient ventilation, higher temperatures and humidity than the outdoors, and outdoor weather fostering reduced natural ventilation and airflow.
We understand very well that Health is Wealth. Adverse health effects related to VOC exposure include eye and respiratory tract irritation, headache, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment. Chronic exposure can also cause damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. In addition, some organics can cause cancer in animals, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.
Image of young girl in mask who is suffered from air pollution.

Solutions available for air purification

Solutions available for air purification

Since gases can leak even from closed containers, it is best to dispose of old chemicals, thus helping lower concentrations of organic chemicals in your home. (Be sure that materials you decide to keep are stored not only in a well-ventilated area but are also safely and out of reach of children.) Do not simply throw these unwanted products in the trash can.

Store chemicals carefully

While storing or keeping chemicals, cleaning products and paints, it is best to store them in an unattached garage or shed. It is not simply the consumption of such products as paint, varnishes, heavy cleaning supplies etc., that are hazardous. They omit gasses in a process called 'off-gassing', which can enter a room and reduce indoor air quality.
There are multiple solutions available in the market to assure that the air we breathe is clean from VOCs and other indoor air pollutants like suspended particulate matter. Air Security Device is one such solution which can be used in indoor spaces. Air Security Devices are available for homes, offices and other indoor spaces like restaurants, meeting rooms and conference halls. Nevertheless, depending on the size of the room and concentration of pollutants, air security devices of adequate size have to be chosen for effective performance.
You can keep windows open and ventilate the indoor environment with fresh air to dilute and lower VOC concentrations.

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