Volatile organic compounds

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Volatile organic compounds (VOC) vaporize at room temperature. With regard to energy resources, VOCs are part of petroleum products. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they are the leading cause of smog.[1]


Volatile organic compounds commonly contain carbon, hydrogen, fluorine, chlorine, sulfur or nitrogen. Some types of VOCs are hazardous air pollutants and, when combined with nitrogen oxide, create ground-level ozone. The most typical VOCs include gasoline, benzene and formaldehyde. Human exposure to VOCs usually occurs with smog or when they are used in the home for cleaning or painting.[2]

Health impact

Health risks depend on many volatile organic compounds are in the air, how long and how often someone may have been breathing them. Short-term and long-term exposures can generate different kinds of health problems. Small amounts of VOCs for a long period of time could create worse symptoms for asthmatics and people who are sensitive to chemicals. The risk of health problems also depends on the kind of compound, since each has its own toxicity level. Short-term exposure usually can lead to eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Long-term exposure to high levels of VOCs can increase the risk of cancer, damage to the nervous system, liver damage and kidney damage.[3]

See also