The Real Importance of Monitoring Volatile Organic Compounds

The Real Importance of Monitoring Volatile Organic Compounds

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A big focus of many Net Zero emissions plans being adopted by countries and corporations across the globe has rightly targeted Carbon, Methane, and Hydrogen Sulfide. However, emissions from Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs) are still a major concerns which needs to be accounted for.

A study released in May 2023 from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found that over 5,000 tons of 33 potentially harmful VOCs were emitted in 2020 in the state of California alone. 

While VOCs don't typically create the potential danger for flammability or combustibility, the compounds are nevertheless dangerous in their own right when exposed to large amounts. They are categorized by their volatility and their ability to evaporate under room temperature. Some VOCs have been linked to asthma, cancer and reproductive and developmental complications as well as damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

Common examples of VOCs include:

  • Benzine: emitted from petroleum
  • Formaldehyde: common in many fabrics and building materials
  • Acetone: found in wallpaper
  • Ethanol: found in paints
  • Butanone: found in paints and other coatings, glues and cleaning products
  • Ethylene glycol: also found in paint, as well as detergents and industrial solvents
  • Methylene chloride: used for paint strippers, degreasing, cleaning and manufacturing

VOCs pose a considerable threat to the environment at high enough concentrations. They can disrupt natural processes in plants and cause the formation of low-level ozone which can causes smog. Smog has a debilitating effect on the whole environment, destroying crops and forests.

VOCs also pose a risk of asphyxiation. Oxygen deficiency is a leading cause of injury and death in confined space accidents. There are many examples of fatal accidents caused by oxygen deficiencies due to displacement by VOC vapors.

Workers in certain industries like the oil and gas trade, chemical and petrochemical, as well as the paint industry, for example, will be exposed to greater levels than those not working in this sector. People in the building trade are also likely to be at a greater risk.

In a great many circumstances, the monitoring of VOC emissions is required by federal law. The EPA is in charge of overseeing and enforcing the National Volatile Organic Compound Emission Standards For Consumer And Commercial Products as well as the Clean Air Act. However, with so many marching toward Net Zero Emissions, and with the potential health and environmental risks associated with leaving them unchecked, VOC emissions monitoring could be one of the most important tasks your team performs.

You can begin your VOC emissions monitoring journey HERE

references: PressacHSMAZO SensorsCNNCDC