Monday, February 18, 2008

Learning more about VOC

Sometimes, we ponder why there exists issues of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and how Sick House Syndrome etc come about. In actual fact, it is among the things around us, from the ceiling to the walls, walls to the floor, decors and so forth. When we are ignorant about these issues, our health will be put at risk.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gas from certain solids or liquids which include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short – and/or long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than the outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a multitude of products. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many products for cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobbies. Fuel is made up of organic chemicals as well. All of these items can release organic compounds while in use, and to some extent as well, when stored.

EPA’s Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies found that levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Additional TEAM studies indicate that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they are in risk of exposure to high levels of pollutant. Elevated concentrations of the VOCs can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines VOCs as all organic compounds (substances made up of predominantly carbon and hydrogen molecules) with boiling temperatures in the range of 50-260C. This means that they are likely to be present as a vapor or gas in normal ambient temperatures. Substances that are included in the VOC category include aliphatic hydrocarbons (such as hexane), aromatic hydrocarbons (such as benzene, toluene and xylenes), and oxygenated compounds (such as acetone and similar ketones).

In Japan, VOCs are placed under strict rule and regulation. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare classified one general group of these gaseous substances as VOC 5, including formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, ethyl benzene and styrene. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport expanded this group to include palla dichlorobenzene, chlorpyrifosmethyl and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) to make up VOC 8.

When renovating or constructing any building, please insist on non-VOC materials.

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