Organic Compounds are chemicals that contain carbon and are found in all living things. Now Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases. That means VOCs have a low boiling point which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the solid or liquid form of the compound. Do you remember the distinctive smell of plastic, rubber or leather? That what you smell or VOCs. Over the last decades there was a lot of discussion going on to the topic farmaldehyde (methanal) a VOC which evaporates from paint and has a boiling point of only -19 deg C or -2 deg F. A major source of man-made VOCs are coatings, especially paints and protective coatings. Solvents are required to spread a protective or decorative film. Approximately 12 billion liters of paints are produced annually. But also the use of fossil fuels produces VOC’s either directly or indirectly as byproducts (e.g. automobile exhaust gas).
Since many people spend much of their time indoors and a long-term exposed to VOCs in the indoor environment it can contribute to sick building syndrome. In offices, also office equipment such as photocopy machines, can off-gas VOCs into the air. Studies also show that relative leukemia and lymphoma can increase through prolonged exposure of VOCs in the indoor environment.
Respiratory, allergic, or immune effects in infants or children are associated with man-made VOCs and other indoor or outdoor air pollutants.
Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some VOCs can cause even cancer. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeding, fatigue, dizziness.
At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.
And remember outdoor VOCs in combination with nitrogen + energy produces “bad” ozone!