What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?
Volatile organic compounds are organic substances with great ease to evaporate at room temperature. Indoors, they can be released into the air from sources such as solvents, paints, adhesives, plastics, and other construction and furniture products. Its health effects can vary greatly, depending on the nature of the compound and the degree and period of exposure to it.
Short-term exposure can cause symptoms such as eye and respiratory irritation, headache, allergic reactions, nausea, or visual disturbances. In the long term, they can damage various organs of the body and some of them are known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.
Where can we find VOC indoors?
In indoor environments, the main VOC emissions, which pollute the air, come from:
- Metabolism and emanations of people
- Building materials, furniture and decoration.
- Products for cleaning and conservation, cosmetics.
VOCs emitting building materials
Among the construction, furniture and decoration materials, as VOC emitters, we can mention: plasterboard, ceiling panels, pressed wood elements, rubber or mastic joints, waterproofing, melanin panels, paints, many adhesives, wallpapers, wallpaper glues, carpets, wooden floors, upholstery and curtains, etc. These materials can cause sick building syndrome, the condition in which building occupants experience comfort and health effects that appear to be linked to time spent indoors, but no specific illness or cause can be diagnosed
The VOC emission of all these materials decays over time, but it does so in a very uneven way, while the humid materials that dry a few hours after their application usually emit intensely in their humid phase to cease or greatly reduce their emission afterward. that they have dried; solid materials have their maximum emission peak when they are removed from the packaging, to gradually decay over time. However, they can maintain a significant emission level for months and even years after being installed. The intensity of the emission after months or years of installation varies greatly from one material to another.
Cleaning and cosmetic products include soaps, gels, lacquers, perfumes and detergents, glass cleaners, stain removers, grease solvents, polishes, pesticides, aerosols, etc.
VOCs and indoor air quality
It is difficult to specify the maximum allowed concentrations of VOCs indoors, because, as we have seen, the term VOC includes a multitude of compounds. Undoubtedly, adequate ventilation of the rooms is required to eliminate the VOCs that are produce inside.
How can we know when it is necessary to ventilate? Using an Indoor Air Quality IoT device with a VOCs sensor that can alert you when VOCs levels are too high. At ENVIRA IoT we developed Nanoenvi® IAQ. This gadget enables continuous monitoring of indoor pollution parameters so that building managers can make decisions to improve people’s health and welfare indoors.