Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are compounds emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids that can be found in your indoor air. VOCs are emitted from a variety of man-made chemicals and products, which include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids, carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, photographic solutions, perfumes, etc.
Some of these VOCs (e.g. formaldehyde, benzene, tobacco smoke, etc.) are classified as carcinogens which are capable of causing cancer. That being said, the health effects of VOCs depend on the type, concentration, duration of exposure and/or based on the sensitivity of an individual. VOCs are known to be more problematic during and after construction of a home or building where new building materials, furnishings and/or finishes can result in elevated concentrations. During these high concentrations, a malodor can develop and prolong for extended timeframe(s) followed by individualized adverse health symptoms (e.g. conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, etc.) therefore making it difficult to pin-point the culprit/source(s) of the elevated VOCs.
We have performed various types of VOC testing over the years which notably include the EPA Method TO-15 (pictured above) that uses a specialized pump and metal canister to collect the ambient air and to measure up to 97 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of the total 189 hazardous air pollutants listed in the Clean Air Act. This whole air sample method helps identify individual VOCs and their concentrations which then can be interpreted and compared to permissible exposure limits established by OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration) and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).