Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility. Many VOCs are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacturing of paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. VOCs are typically industrial solvents, or by-products produced by chlorination in water treatment, such as chloroform. They are common ground-water contaminants, and often components of petroleum based products, hydraulic fluids, paint thinners, and cleaning agents. They are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, industrial adhesives, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics materials, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.
Health Effects of VOCs
The extent and nature of the health effects of VOCs will depend on many factors including the level of exposure as well as the duration and frequency of exposure. Some of the symptoms after exposure include:
- Eye and respiratory tract irritation
- Nausea and dizziness
- Visual disorders and memory impairment
- Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals (based on toxicological studies)
Clean Air Act standards, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) VOC standards and regulations pertaining to use of solvents in various industries are NESHAP, NSPS, CTG, ACT, 183(e) VOC Rule.
- National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants – NESHAP
- New Source Performance Standards – NSPS
- Control Techniques Guidelines – CTG
- Alternative Control Techniques – ACT
- National Volatile Organic Compound Emission Standards – 183(e) VOC Rule
The EPA recommends that states adopt requirements consistent with the presumptive Reasonably Available Control Technology or RACT (ground level VOC). These measures are only a recommendation, and states may develop their own RACT requirements on a case-by-case basis, considering the economic and technical circumstances of individual sources. No Federal laws or regulations preclude states from requiring more stringent controls than those recommended as RACT. Some states may need additional control in order to meet the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone in some areas.
VOCs are a very important consideration in various industries such as Aerospace, Medical, Electronics, Oil & Chemical processing as well as Industrial OEM. The key to ensure that VOCs are mitigated is to select compounds that do not contain solvents or high levels of VOCs in them to begin with. This will help not only limit the VOC from the very beginning, but also limit the outgassing of these VOCs over time on a device level. Reformulation to lower VOC content would be beneficial from health and safety aspects, and would require less VOC control measure equipment. 100% solids epoxies typically contain no VOCs, and are ideal for applications in enclosed spaces, or applications involving very large bonding or coating areas.
1. EPA Volatile organic compound air quality effects https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/ctg_act/199712_voc_epa453_r-97-004_aerospace_rework.pdf
2. Control of Volatile Organic Compound Emissions from Coating Operations at Aerospace Manufacturing and Rework Operations, by US EPA Emission Standards Division https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/ctg_act/199712_voc_epa453_r-97-004_aerospace_rework.pdf