COV, définition

Equipment for VOC detection

Contaminants responsible for the chemical pollution of the air. | Chemical air pollutants are gases, nanoparticles or micro particles from combustion devices, tobacco smoke, household and personal care products, and various building materials and furniture that may contain large quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Testing &Detection

Airflow in homes or offices is a super-highway for chemical compounds that create odors, smoke and gases. This cause the spread of chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs); the best known are petroleum products such as fuels, formaldehyde and acetone. They can come off other sources such as:

  • Aerosols
  • Warm alcohol
  • Air fresheners
  • Timber
  • Wax and wax
  • Construction glues
  • Electrical components
  • Cosmetics products
  • Household cleaners
  • Removers
  • stain removers
  • Detergents
  • Thinners
  • Hair fixatives
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Insecticides
  • Floor tiles
  • Building materials
  • The furniture
  • Carpets
  • Insulating foams
  • Cleansers
  • Paintings
  • Cleaning products
  • Nail polish
  • Floor varnishes

As their name indicates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are defined in three main points: they are a group of two or more elements; they are from biological origin because they contain carbon and hydrogen; and, finally, they are considered volatile since they evaporate at room temperature and can be easily vaporized.

Carbon and hydrogen are used in the manufacture of several chemicals; this means that VOCs are present in a wide range of products and there are several possible sources of VOC emissions in indoor air (see list above). Many VOCs are known to be toxic, and some, such as benzene and formaldehyde, have been identified as carcinogens. Although no adverse health effects have been identified for other VOCs, there is still uncertainty about the potential for long-term exposure to such chemicals present in the houses. Even if most VOCs cause little health risk, vigilance is still required as the effects of VOC exposure differ from one to another; it depends on the rate and duration of exposure, and most importantly, the sensitivity of each person to different chemicals. As a precaution, it is recommended to reduce, if possible, VOC levels.

It is the organic character of VOCs, since they are based on hydrocarbons, which makes them volatile: that is to say, they evaporate and vaporize at room temperature. One can think, for example, of gasoline, a petroleum product from a multitude of organic compounds, which reacts as such. It is also possible to think of glues made of parts of boiled animals (hydrocarbons) that are used in the production of wood products, vinyl floor coverings, etc., and which vaporize or produce gaseous effluents (release gaseous), even after hardening.

What makes the understanding of VOC activity more difficult is that vaporization and evaporation is not distinguished: both are considered to be the change of a solid in the liquid or gaseous state or in the state of liquid vapor. To be more accurate, it is necessary to refer only to the notion of vaporization in cases of matter emanating from a biological organism not transformed by humans. Other biological organisms, such as molds that spread their spores into the air, mites' faeces, dust, have the ability to vaporize harmful proteins that affect the lungs. They play an important role in the pollution of indoor environment with emissions that are sometimes benign, but most often dangerous for health, in the short or long term.

Pollutants from furniture and building materials. A high proportion of VOC is found in common household products such as: furniture, mattresses, cabinets, building materials, wallpaper, cleaning products and glue. These products may release gases into the indoor air; this is called "gas emanations". Consideration should also be given to the fact that building materials such as insulators containing asbestos and paint containing lead can release harmful dust and particles when handled, especially during renovation work. Which require their replacement.

Once again, AIRTESTS advises you to find out about the health risks of certain household products and building materials, and the precautions you should take before starting work that could compromise the health of residents or your family. In addition, if exposed, young children are most at risk because their respiratory system is not fully developed. It is therefore necessary to protect them more and to be attentive to the symptoms relating to exposure to VOC: irritations of the eyes, the respiratory and digestive tracts, headaches, sensations of drunkenness, dizziness and nausea.

Domestic toxic products are a source of VOCs. Exposure to these products is by direct contact, ingestion or inhalation. Health effects vary with duration of the exposure: Short term exposure occurs at the time of product application. This can cause nausea, dizziness, allergic reactions or irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Long-term exposure, on the other hand, can lead to hypersensitivity and sometimes even cancer. Some VOCs are more dangerous than others, for example BTEX:

  • Benzene: bone marrow infection, leukemia and nervous system depression;
  • Toluene: headache, nausea, dizziness and depression of the nervous system;
  • Ethylbenzene: asthenia, headache and irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract
  • Xylenes: nausea, fatigue, dizziness, kidney and liver problems.

These four VOCs are found mainly in petroleum-based products such as adhesives, thinners, solvents, paint removers, varnishes, paint and stain...

In order to prevent VOC exposure, it is possible to think of using household products that are less toxic and therefore more ecological. If not, make sure that product storage is consistent and make sure you take the proper precautions when using them.

Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas commonly used around the world as a disinfectant and preservative. It is also used in many household products and some building materials. When present at high levels in the air, it gives off a pungent odor. Formaldehyde is found at low rates in all homes and buildings. The main sources of formaldehyde in indoor air are:

  • Tobacco smoke;
  • smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces;
  • Emanations from vehicles inside garages adjacent to homes;
  • Latex paints, glues, adhesives, varnishes and lacquers;
  • Wallpaper, cardboard and paper goods;
  • Dishwashing detergents, fabric softeners, shoe polish and carpet cleaners and nail polish and hardeners;
  • Wrinkle-free fabrics (for curtains, sheets and clothes);
  • Furniture, cabinets and building materials made of chipboard, medium density fibreboard, hardwood, plywood and some molded plastics.

Formaldehyde is an irritant. Short-term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde can cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat. Long-term exposure to moderate levels of formaldehyde may be associated with breathing problems and allergies, especially in children.

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism


Photocopy room that may contain VOCs

Companies, sections of offices or commercial printing centers are places where there are many photocopiers and printers. Simple measures must therefore be implemented for the protection of employees, particularly for those responsible for reprography, maintenance, servicing and repair of these devices.

Every employer must ensure the health and safety of his workers, and carry out the assessment of occupational hazards in his company. As a result of this evaluation, it is an obligation to implement a professional risk prevention policy that includes information and training for workers. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in criminal liability of the employer.

The risks associated with photocopiers and printers. Powder inks for copiers or printers are generally composed of 85% of a polymer (low-melting binder), 10% pigment colorant (carbon black) and 5% of a control charge agent (involved in the electrostatic reproduction process).

These powdered inks are irritants and can cause sensitizing effect (risk of allergy) and various health problems to operators exposed to its dust (coughing, sneezing, skin or eye irritation, headache, etc..). In case of appearance or persistence of these signs, it is necessary to consult a doctor.

In some experimental and animal studies, a carcinogenic effect in relation to powdered ink emissions is not excluded, but current knowledge does not allow to conclude it. Photocopier-generated ozone is potentially dangerous (risk of lung, eye, kidney and neurological damage), but most modern photocopiers are currently equipped with ozone filters, which reduces the risk. On the other hand, users who produce large numbers of photocopies or who handle old or bad equipment - poorly maintained or without filters - are big risk.

Various inks are used according to the technology of the printers placed on the market

Inkjet. This process is divided into 2 categories: the continuous stream and the drop on demand. The ink is a mixture of solvent, coloring matter, binder and additives:

  • The role of the solvent is to transport the ink between the cartridge and the paper, and to contribute to drying; methyl ethyl ketone, acetates, ether glycol and alcohols are generally used; some solvents are toxic when they are inhaled, swallowed or come into contact with the skin; and they have an ecological impact;
  • Coloring matter are composed of very soluble components and without heavy metals having a good resistance to light; today, we are moving towards the use of very fine pigments (<1 μm) which are very toxic (heavy metals in general);
  • The binder ensures the cohesion of the ink and controls its viscosity; it allows the adhesion of the coloring matter to the support; phenolic resins are sometimes replaced by copolymers;
  • The additives are present in the ink in a proportion of less than 1%; their function is to improve the fluidity, the adhesion, the rheology of the binder or the conductivity of the ink; they can be powerful allergens.

Laser printing is a photoelectric printing process that uses toner (toner). This powder consists mostly of fine particles of plastic, resin and magnetic pigments. The polymers (copolymers, polyester resins) used vary according to the manufacturer. Initially, the average particle size was between 14 and 16 μm or more. When you go to a resolution of 600 dpi, the particle size can go from 8 to 10 μm.

As in the case of inkjet printing, the toner is not without consequences on the environment and health. A survey of some 60 laser printers revealed that almost a third of the models tested release potentially harmful ink residues into the air (source PC Impact - 08/2007).

The dust of photocopiers, big enemies of computers and servers. Does the reprography room destroy computer rooms and server rooms? First, good air circulation is essential, with unpolluted air, since it is air that ensures the proper functioning of computer equipment by cooling computers, servers, cabinets containing computer equipment, etc. : overheating is one of the most important causes of power outages and blackouts.

Housekeeping. Premises housing photocopying equipment or computer equipment should be cleaned daily and with special attention to avoid the accumulation of dust and too much airborne particulate matter. For example, to wash the floor, it is recommended to use a mop moistened with clear water, because the additives present in the cleaning products can damage the computer equipment. Raised floors require special maintenance, and annual cleaning of the plenum requires the expertise of specialized companies to keep the filters of the computer units intact and to ensure a satisfactory level of hygiene for the staff.

In addition to the monitoring required by dust, there are also temperature and humidity levels which can also cause equipment breakdowns, such as those of other air pollutants, which can also cause rapid and very damaging corrosion of computer equipment. Indeed, as stated in the Hewlett Packard preparation guide, air pollution and dust pose many dangers for electronic equipment: masking disk drive heads, short circuit components, tampering with contacts insufficient cooling, deterioration of moving mechanical parts, risk of deterioration of magnetic media, premature clogging of internal filters or air conditioning, etc. In addition, there are many different types of dust and they do not react in the same way when they come into contact with the electronic components:
Fine or abrasive dust;
Conductive dust;
Dry or insulating dust.

Fine dust causes abrasion of components, especially those from moving parts; and its accumulation on the housings promotes the retention of water and moisture. Conductive dust causes short circuits, while dry or insulating dust can interrupt current flow and increase contact resistance. Dry dust is characterized as a thermal insulator since it reduces heat dispersion and increases local temperature. This process can damage electrical circuits and even cause fires or explosions.

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism


Technician doing a manicure

The law requires employers to provide their employees a safe and healthy workplaces. However, in beauty salons or salons especially dedicated to nail prostheses installation, where many harmful chemicals are used, the ventilation and air filtration systems are often inadequate. Workers and customers are at risk of absorbing a significant amount of chemical particles that remain suspended in indoor air. Beauticians, technicians specialized in nail prostheses installation, etc., also say they experience discomfort in their workplace: headaches, dizziness, rashes, etc. These symptoms should not be taken lightly, since studies have shown that staff from such salons was at higher risk of developing certain chronic diseases, such as cancer or diseases. Immunity; and, in the fetus of pregnant women, congenital malformations. Day after day, for long hours, these workers expose themselves to many chemicals, breathe harmful vapors, particulate dust, fumes. They can eat them when they eat, drink or smoke in the place. Nail technicians, because they use the most harmful products, are particularly at risk. Studies describe respiratory problems, skin and their musculoskeletal system. However, these studies remain cautious about the cause of these health problems, as it remains difficult to prove that these diseases are directly connected to this type of pollution exposure. But the dangerousness of these products, it is still very real.

Indeed, the manicure and pedicure products contain many chemical substances such as acetone, ethyl methacrylate and other acrylates, methyl ethyl ketone, ethyl acetate, lanolin and dimethyl p-toluidine. They can cause irritation to skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs and can affect the central nervous system.

The products used in which these substances are found are:

  • Solvent used to remove the old varnish from the clients' nails;
  • Glue that fixes the capsules on the natural nail and the silk and glass fibers;
  • Liquid (primer) which facilitates the adhesion of the resin;
  • Acrylic liquid, a monomer;
  • Acrylic powder, a polymer, which comprises a catalyst, generally benzoyl peroxide);
  • Gels (several types of gels exist, but their compositions remain quite similar);
  • Nail polish;
  • Nail polish Remover;
  • Brush cleaner

Some of these products contain formaldehyde; product that can cause allergies and cancers (long term exposure). Others products contain ethers of glycol, xylene and toluene which, according to experiences carried out on laboratory animals, are at the origin of reproduction disorders. Although the use of methyl methacrylate (MM) has been banned in the United States since 1974, it continues to be used. In 1982, a study showed that from 29 products tested, 8 contained some; and a 1986 study found measurable concentrations of MM in the air of some nail salons. With skin contact, this product may cause tingling, numbness and fingers whitening. For many people, it is also responsible for skin allergies. In addition, an allergy to MM may increase sensitivity to more common methacrylate’s. In some products MM has been replaced by other acrylates which can also increase this sensitivity. Despite this, many homeowners and salon staff are careless about chemical fumes; for example, the bottles containing acrylic liquid are kept open on work table, even when they are not used, and they are only closed at the end of the day.

But several ways can be adopted to prevent related risks to an exposure to these chemicals. First, find out about the ingredients they contain. Labeling, on the other hand, is often problematic because some companies do not disclose ingredients on bottles or containers. However, be aware that manufacturers are required to provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) of their products that are potentially hazardous for workers' health. Replace, where possible, harmful products with less dangerous alternatives.

When there are no substitutes or when there is a lack of knowledge of the ingredients due to poor labeling, some harmful chemicals may be difficult to avoid. In such situations, exposure to these products should be reduced as much as possible by those following behaviors:

  • Provide good ventilation;
  • Keep garbage well closed;
  • Use small quantities of these products;
  • Wear nitrile gloves and protective clothing;
  • Wash hands before and after use.

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism


Dressing table performing a dyeing

Risks caused by chemicals on hairdressers’ workers and beautician health and purification of air. In North America, we estimate 1.1 million women and men work in over 165,000 salons and beauty salons. Hairstylists, hairdressers, and beauticians provide a wide range of services, including shaving, cutting and shaping, manicure, pedicure, artificial nails, and a wide range of chemical hair treatments such as coloring, fading, straightening and permanent waving. People working in hair and beauty salons are exposed to a wide variety of chemical particles with multiple way to enter the human body: absorption through the skin or the eyes, inhalation of vapors and hazardous particles or ingestion when they eat, drink or smoke.

Chemical products

In the United States, an analysis from US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH - acronym for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) reveals that 30% of the 3,000 chemicals used in hair salons and by beautician are classified by the US Government as toxic substances. However, in many salons, ventilation is not good enough to eliminate the presence of these chemicals. We can learn about the risks to be in contact with these products by reading labels and safety data sheets (MSDS). Chemicals have different effects on the body depending on their concentration, toxicity, way of absorption (inhalation, skin contact, ingestion) and duration of exposure. Individual characteristics (general health status, pregnancy, smoking, for example) are also factors that influence the impacts of these products.

Routine operations involving the use of chemicals

Hair coloring. The coloring solutions are applied manually on hair (but also, and increasingly, on the eyebrows and eyelashes) using an applicator bottle or a brush. The chemicals used for hair coloring are usually synthetic organic pigment, complex metallic dyes or vegetable dyes. Synthetic pigment are often permanent oxidizing dyes that contain hydrogen peroxide to oxidize the aromatic diamines. These products are irritating eyes, nose and throat, and they contain amines that cause allergies to some people. Metal dyes sometimes contain lead compounds.

Coal tar dyes. Coal tar dyes may contain mutagenic agents. In vitro tests have not been able to evaluate their health risks. On the other hand, there are non-mutagenic dyes whose use should be encouraged; henna, for example, which is a vegetable dye.

Hair bleaching Bleaching solutions are applied manually using an applicator bottle or a brush. They may contain hydrogen peroxide, sodium peroxide, ammonium hydroxide, ammonium persulfate or potassium persulfate, all of these products may cause irritation to skin, eyes, nose, throat or lungs. Beautician also use persulfate lightening powders that have also been associated with asthma.

Permanent waving. The perm are usually done in several steps: washing the hair, laying hair curlers, applying a solution containing thioglycolate or a similar agent, rinsing and neutralization with an oxidizing agent. Water vaporizers can also be used. Perm solutions may contain alcohol, bromates, sodium hydroxide, boric acid (perborate or borate), and ammonium thioglycolate or glycerol monothioglycolate. Some of these products have effects on the central nervous system (headache, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness) and may cause skin irritation, burns or allergic reactions (obstruction or runny nose, sneezing, asthma or allergic dermatitis).

Washing and styling hair. Hair washing includes shampoo and water rinsing, followed or not by the application of a conditioner or detangler, and other hair care products. Hair drying is done in several ways: with towels, with a hand hair dryer or with a fixed dryer. Hair styling usually requires the use of gels, creams or aerosol cans. Hair washing is often the first step in a series of other operations such as styling, coloring and permanent waving. In big hair salons, a person can be assigned exclusively to hair washing and is, consequently, more exposed to this type of products. Shampoos and conditioners (hair toners) may contain alcohol, petroleum distillates and formaldehyde: products known to provoke dermatitis and allergies, including asthma. In addition, the use of formaldehyde for a long periods can cause cancer. Also, aerosol hair spray lacquers sometimes contain, in addition to solvents, polyvinylpyrrolidone, which has been associated in some studies with pulmonary and respiratory diseases, including thesaurosis.

Hair straightening. Straightening or softening solutions are applied to hair with a brush; the hair is then straightened and the natural loop is flattened. The straightening solutions may contain sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, bromates, ammonium, thioglycolate and glycerol monothioglycolate. These chemicals can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, central nervous system effects and dermatitis.

Considering this wide range of chemical products over a long period of time, hairdressers have a critical role to play in improving the air quality of their workplace to avoid serious health problems. .

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism


Art expert performing a restoration using solvent containing VOCs

Artists who use paint and art restorers are often confined to workshops or confined spaces. By their art or profession, they expose themselves for long periods to particles present in the air of their workplace. Indeed, the paint and the products used for the restoration are composed of many polluting products..

Solvent configuration: paint and VOCs. Paints, even those based on water, contain solvents. As it dries, paint releases them into the air. These solvents are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can cause serious health effects: asthma, respiratory allergies, headaches, neurological disorders, etc. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paints and finishes include more than 9% of global VOC emissions. They are, after automobiles, the biggest emitters. Now aware of this environmental issue, most large companies in this field have begun to produce low-VOC or VOC-free paints.

But product labeling is a problem because VOC-free paint is not completely exempt. For example, acrylic paints, considered to be VOC-free, but contain traces of them. In addition, even with low VOCs, synthetic paints may contain other solvents and additives that affect air quality. A painting is a complex set of chemical components. His composition is very variable depending on its function and the medium on which it will be applied. However, it still contains a charge that also participates in its resistance, pigments, a binder that ensures the cohesion of its elements, a solvent, which dissolves the binder to make the paint applicable, and additives. The binder is the main component of the painting. It guaranteed the cohesion of various constituents between them and on the application support. It is made of synthetic or natural resins that create a film by drying. Depending on the drying mode (evaporation or dissolution), that is to say with oil or water, the binder modifies the quality of the indoor air in a short and medium term.

The charge consists of very different mineral substances (talc, mica, kaolin, dolomite, etc.). It reinforced the mechanical strength that reduces the glossy appearance of the paint, and its effectiveness differs depending on the importance of the ratio between the binder and the pigments. In general, a glossy paint is richer in binder and, therefore, in organic matter that may pollute the air. Conversely, a matte paint contains more fillers, which partly explains its lower VOC content.

The solvent dilutes the paint. It sometimes represents 50% of the total weight and evaporates almost completely in the air while drying. While evaporating, ia part of the pollutants escape. There are two modes of dissolution: the first is solvent phase (oil); the second is aqueous phase (water), it is sometimes a simple dissolution with water, as for mineral paints based on potassium silicate or lime, sometimes added co-solvents (glycol ethers). The pigments give color, opacity and protection to the binder. For white paints, titanium dioxide is used, which well diffuses the light. Mineral pigments, such as iron oxides, are used for making reds, yellows and blacks. In museum restoration, since ancient character must be reproduce, the pigments used in the paintings still contain heavy metals. The opposite is true for paintings that could be described as modern, and this reduces their VOC content, since the presence of VOC is dependent, among other things, on the organic or mineral nature of the colors. Finally, a number of additives play a role in reducing the spread of VOC, such as siccatives (accelerating drying), water repellents (improving moisture resistance), fungicides (fighting molds), coalescing agents (facilitating the formation of the film), antioxidants, anti-electrostatic agents, thickeners, stabilizers, biocides, etc. On the other hand, even if they are less harmful then VOCs, these additives can also be a source of atmospheric pollution.

After applying the paint, the solvent odor may persist for several weeks, even after intense aeration. In addition, even if the odor disappears after a certain time, VOCs may be present in the air at harmful concentrations if a person is exposed to it for a long time. Normally, VOCs evaporate completely when drying, and emissions are especially important the first three days after application. While other compounds from paint continue to be release for several weeks, or even months, because pigments and other additives, they remain on the painted media for decades.

In sum, the many chemical components of the paint (such as the solvent) and the products used in the field of museum restoration put at risk artists and workers who are exposed to it. In addition, poor ventilation of the creative or work space greatly accentuates indoor air pollution already subjected to high doses of VOC.

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism