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Detection of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Barrels of chemicals containing VOCs

The presence of too high a concentration of VOCs in the workplace can lead to lower performance and staff performance. These sources of discomfort have a direct impact on the rate of absenteeism (repercussions on the entire production chain). Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have a direct impact on health. Several air quality standards have been established to protect humans from the various pollutants that can affect their health. The most common symptoms are headaches, skin irritations and breathing difficulties.

Inorganic Contamination: Environmental control is a must, especially for the aeronautics, aerospace, electronics and nanotechnology industries, which are required to manufacture dust-free products. A dust-free environment maintains the quality standards required for these types of production. These organic and inorganic contaminants can be detected from air tests.

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).

Testing and detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

The indoor airflow is a super highway for chemical compounds that create odors, smoke and gases. This promotes 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
  • Adhesives and glues
  • Cleaning products
  • Electrical components
  • Building materials
  • Insulating materials
  • Solvents and thinners
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Paint strippers

As their name indicates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are defined in three main points: they are a grouping of two or more elements; they are of 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 these products and that there are several possible sources of VOC emissions in indoor air (in this regard, see list above).

Many VOCs are known to be toxic, and some, such as benzene and formaldehyde, have been identified as carcinogens, this is why it's important to detect Volatile Organic Compounds. 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 at present in the houses. While there is agreement that most VOCs pose little health risk, vigilance is still required as the effects of volatile organic compounds exposure differ from one setting to another; it depends on the rate and duration of exposure, and most importantly, the sensitivity of each person to the different chemicals. As a precaution, it is recommended to reduce, if possible, VOC levels.

It is the organic character of volatile organic compounds, 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 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 lining of the lungs. The latter play an important role in the pollution of the indoor environment with emissions that are sometimes benign, but most often dangerous for health, in the short or long term. 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.

Microscopic view of VOC contained in solvents

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: dizziness, headache, dizziness and nervous system depression
  • Xylenes: nausea, fatigue, dizziness, kidney and liver problems.

These four (4) volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found mainly in petroleum-based products such as adhesives, thinners, solvents, paint strippers, varnishes, paint and stain. In order to prevent VOC exposure, it is possible to think of using household products that are much 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.

Volatile Organic Compounds detection (baseline test identifying more than 30 components)

  • 1,1-dichloroethene
  • Dichloromethane
  • 1,2-dichloroethene (trans)
  • 1,1-dichloroethane
  • 1,2-Dichloroethene (cis)
  • Chloroform
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Benzene
  • 1,2-dichloroethane
  • Trichlorethylene
  • 1,2-dichloropropane
  • Bromodichloromethane
  • 1,3-dichloropropene (cis)
  • Toluene
  • 1,3-dichloropropene (trans)
  • 1,1,2-trichloroethane
  • 1,3-dichloropropane
  • Tetrachloroethene
  • Dibromochloromethane
  • Chlorobenzene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • m + p Xylenes
  • Xylene
  • Styrene
  • Bromoform
  • 1,3,5-trimethyl
  • 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene
  • 1,3-dichlorobenzene
  • 1,4-dichlorobenzene
  • Summation of xylenes
  • 1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane
  • Summation of 1,2-dichloroethene (t + c)
  • Summation of 1,3-dichloropropene (t + c)