Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds

Little is known on the quality of indoor ambient air within our office place, schools and even our own homes. As such, people take for granted that the ambient air that we breathe within our work and home environment is safe.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that vaporise at room temperature from either a solid or liquid. They are used as ingredients within many commonly used products throughout the work and home environment. Products containing VOCs can release these chemicals whilst being used or even when being stored. As such, concentrations of VOCs are particularly higher within an indoor setting (up to 10 times higher) than outdoors.

Products used within the work or home setting
that contain and release VOCs

Examples of Office and Household Products Possible VOC of Concern

Fuel containers or devices using gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil and products with petroleum distillates: paint thinner, oil-based stains and paint, aerosol or liquid insect pest products, mineral spirits, furniture polishes

BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), hexane, cyclohexane, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene

Personal care products: nail polish, nail polish remover, colognes, perfumes, rubbing alcohol, hair spray

Acetone, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, methacrylates (methyl or ethyl), ethyl acetate

Dry cleaned clothes, spot removers, fabric/ leather cleaners

Tetrachloroethene (perchloroethene (PERC), trichloroethene (TCE))

Citrus (orange) oil or pine oil cleaners, solvents and some odour masking products

d-limonene (citrus odour), a-pinene (pine odour), isoprene

PVC cement and primer, various adhesives, contact cement, model cement

Tetrahydrofuran, cyclohexane, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), toluene, acetone, hexane, 1,1,1- trichloroethane, methyl-iso-butyl ketone (MIBK)

Paint stripper, adhesive (glue) removers

Methylene chloride, toluene, older products may contain carbon tetrachloride

Degreasers, aerosol penetrating oils, brake cleaner, carburettor cleaner, commercial solvents, electronics cleaners, spray lubricants

Methylene chloride, PERC, TCE, toluene, xylenes, methyl ethyl ketone, 1,1,1-trichloroethane

Moth balls, moth flakes, deodorizers, air fresheners

1,4-dichlorobenzene, naphthalene

Refrigerant from air conditioners, freezers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers

Freons (trichlorofluoromethane, dichlorodifluoromethane)

Aerosol spray products for some paints, cosmetics, automotive products, leather treatments, pesticides

Heptane, butane, pentane

Upholstered furniture, carpets, plywood, pressed wood products


Health Effects of the VOCs

The use of the aforementioned products may lead to poor quality indoor air that can lead to short and long term health issues such as:

Short Term

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose & throat (aggravation of respiratory diseases e. asthma);
  • Irritation of skin;
  • Headaches;
  • Dizziness;
  • Nausea; and
  • Fatigue

Long Term

  • Respiratory diseases;
  • Heart Disease; and
  • Cancer

It should be noted that extent and severity of the health effects depend on multiple factors including the amount of time exposed and the level of exposure.

Indoor Air Quality and ADE

Given that Australians spend around 90% of their time in an indoor environment, the effects on our health and wellbeing is of a great concern. It is therefore a fundamental requirement that business owners create a work or home environment were good air quality is routine. In doing so, workers will have noticeable enhancement in their health, quality of life and ultimately lead to improved productivity within the workplace.

Here at ADE, we have 15 years’ experience in conducting and providing extensive and professional indoor air quality assessment for your site(s). If you believe that your office, home or site is susceptible to poor quality indoor air, please contact us. We can provide short or long term monitoring assessments not only for VOCs but a wide range of air pollutants such as microbial contamination, asbestos and air quality parameters (CO, CO2). All works will result in NATA accredited data and comply with the relevant legislation which will allow you to take the necessary environment management steps.