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VOC

volatile organic compounds

What are volatile organic compounds?

The term volatile organic compounds refers to a range of carbon-based chemical elements. They can be in vapor or liquid form.
There are various sources of pollution of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in indoor environments: the “occupants” thenselves, through breathing and body surface, cosmetic or deodorant products, heating devices, cleaning materials and various products (e.g. glues, adhesives, solvents, paints), clothes recently treated in laundries, cigarette smoke and work tools, such as printers and photocopiers.
Other significant sources of pollution are building materials and furnishings (e.g. furniture, carpeting and floor coverings).

High concentrations of VOCs can be found especially in the periods immediately following the laying of the various materials or the installation of the furnishings.
The emission of VOCs is higher at the beginning of product life and tends to decrease considerably in a fairly short time (from a week for paints and adhesives, to six months for other chemical compounds). The exception is formaldehyde, which tends to be released relatively constantly for many years.
Finally, an incorrect ingress of air near areas of high pollution (eg high traffic areas, underground parking, garages) can cause a significant penetration of VOCs from the outside.

Classes
of compound

Aliphatic
hydro-carbons

Halogenated
hydro-carbons

Aromatic
hydrocarbons

Alcohols
compounds

Aldehydes
compounds

Main
Substances

Propane – Hexane –
Limonene

Chloroform – Methylene chloride – Pentachloro-phenol

Benzene – Toluene –
Xylene

Ethyl alcohol –
Methyl alcohol

Formaldehyde –
Acetaldehyde

Main source of indoor
pollution

Fuels, detergents, aerosol propellants, refrigerants, perfume bases, air fresheners

Aerosol propellants, pesticides, refrigerants, degreasers

Paints, glues, enamels, lacquers,
detergents

Window cleaners, paints, thinners, adhesives, cosmetics

Fungicides, insulation, germicides, resins, disinfectants, particle board furniture

Additional notes

Read and learn more about VOC and their risks

benzene

Formaldehyde

radon

hydrocarbons

asbestos

moulds

ozone

microdust

Carbon Monoxide

Sulfur
oxides

Nitrogen
Dioxide

Active and passive smoking

Measures to reduce exposure

The levels of VOCs in indoor environments can be checked by carefully selecting building materials, furnishings and products used for cleaning. Designers and architects, as well as building maintenance managers, should prioritize certified products which respect the health and environment hygiene requirement and keep up to date on latest developments. It is specifically recommended to:

Minimize the use of materials containing VOCs (cosmetics, deodorants, cleaning materials, glues, adhesives, solvents, paints).

Use water-based paint when possible.

  1. Use glues as little as possible when fixing carpets to floors, possibly taking into consideration alternative solutions.

Ventilate the premises adequately when there are possible sources of VOC (materials containing VOC, clothes recently treated in laundries, cigarette smoke, printers, photocopiers) also during and immediately after the laying of construction materials and furnishings (eg furniture , carpets, coverings).

Always maintain well-ventilated areas.

Do not smoke indoors.

Have heating devices regularly checked.

Use extractor hoods with external exhausts when cooking.

Carry out regular checks of heating systems (boilers, flues, chimneys)and cleaning by expert personnel.

Any mechanical ventilation systems must be equipped with suitable filters and regularly checked.

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