What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?
Volatile organic compounds are organic chemicals with high vapor pressure at normal room temperature, which means they move very quickly through air and water. VOCs are represented by a large subcategory of chemical compounds, originating from both natural and man-made sources. Plants and freshly mowed grass release VOCs into the air, in what is referred to as “Green Leaf Volatiles,” or GLV’s. Most volatile organic compounds originate from man-made sources however. They can be found in painting products, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, pesticides, and fuel oil or gasoline products.
Isn’t organic a good thing? Volatile organic compounds sound misleading when you think of it in terms of the environment or eating healthy. “Organic,” in the world of modern chemistry, simply means it is composed of carbon. It does not necessarily mean “natural.”
How and why are VOCs bad?
According to the EPA, the health risks associated with acute exposure to VOCs can include physical impairments such as dizziness and irritation to the eye, nose and throat or neurological symptoms like irritability, sensitivity to noise, sleeplessness, and memory impairment. Long-term exposures have been linked to liver and kidney failure, and autoimmune disorders like leukemia and cancer.
Risks of Inhalation
By air. Volatile organic compounds are most dangerous when inhaled. While GLV’s are relatively benign because the plant’s vapor is released outdoors; man-made VOC compounds releasing aromatic hydrocarbons in an enclosed environment is especially dangerous. To avoid VOC exposure in your home, do not store paint cans or paint thinners in your basement, consider using “green” cleaning products, and ventilate your home regularly with fresh outdoor air. Because VOCs have a tendency to be heavier than air, they sink to the lower floors of your home. If you have VOCs in the air of your home, or are concerned about your indoor air quality, we can install an air exchange system where VOC concentrations are typically highest.
Risks in Water
By water. There are some 50 or more volatile organic compounds that are transferred through water. Benzene, naphthalene, toluene, are a few examples. These get into groundwater through chemical spills or illegal dumping of hazardous waste. To prevent VOC contamination in drinking water it is best to remove the source. Unfortunately this is not always possible. Like any water quality issue, your best recourse as a homeowner is to treat the water as it enters your house.
Simple solutions. The good news in all this is that – although there are many forms of VOCs – filtering them out of your home’s water supply can be accomplished through a simple and inexpensive carbon water system. Absolute Water System will evaluate your water test results and customize a water treatment system to remove the VOC’s from your water so you never have to worry about drinking water from your faucet again.