VOCs: Organic, so their fumes shouldn’t hurt me, right?

Text graphic that defines connotation.In the case of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ‘organic’ has connotations much different than ‘organic’ associated with foods produced by organic farming techniques.

VOCs are chemicals readily released as vapor from both naturally occurring and manufactured substances — which is why they are described as ‘volatile’.

VOCs can cause both immediate and long-term health problems, ranging from skin irritation and asthma to kidney and liver damage.

Workplace occurrences of VOCs

Are any of the following chemical categories in your workplace?

Graphic with list of common workplace VOCs.

They can all release VOCs into your environment.

VOC research

The CDC, in 2009, issued its fourth national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals. This year, they published updated tables on additional chemicals to add to that report.

The report’s 500 pages are worth dipping into, but we don’t recommend it for your bedtime reading if you want a good night’s sleep. It can be a little anxiety-producing.

For each chemical included, there is information on how people might be exposed to that chemical and what the potential health hazards might be.

There’s a whole section on VOCs.

How our customers handle VOCs

VOCs can be found in many types of workplaces, including industrial, scientific, medical and pharmaceutical.

To control VOCs, our customers in these sectors use activated carbon filters in the air purifiers chassis that meets their needs.

Our short video shows how and why activated carbon is an effective VOC filter.

Carbon video image screen capture,

For respiratory protection while cleaning metal parts with a solvent, for example, our customers often use portable downdraft tables like the one shown below.

Sentry Air Systems Model 435 portable downdraft bench.

This Model 435 Portable Downdraft Bench, configured to support tasks that take place while the operator is seated, pulls VOC fumes down into activated carbon filters while providing a stainless steel work surface and the elbow room needed to complete the task.

In laboratory environments, our customers use ductless fume hoods like the one shown below to keep VOC fumes away from technicians’ breathing zones.

Sentry Air Systems Model 340 Ductless containment hood.

The Model 350 Ductless Fume Hood pulls VOC fumes up into activated carbon filters, where they are trapped before they can spread throughout the work area. The clear sash allows the tech to handle the substances that produce the VOCs without breathing their hazardous fumes.

VOCs at your place of work?

If VOCs are a problem where you work and you’d like to consider your options for controlling them, give our Applications Specialists a call at 800.799.4609. You can also email us at sales@sentryair.com or use the comment form below or on our website pages.

 

Resources

Volatile organic compound
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatile_organic_compound

Northern Arizona University – Volatile Organic Compounds
https://www4.nau.edu/eeop/air_quality/docs/AkIAQ_VolatileOrganicCompounds.pdf

Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/FourthReport.pdf

Updated tables, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals
http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/pdf/FourthReport_UpdatedTables_Feb2015.pdf