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Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

What are Volatile Organic compounds / VOCs?

VOCs are organic chemical compounds which evaporate - either partically or completely. Thousands of manufactured products emit VOCs, and some of these may have adverse health effects. Examples of some of the many products which may emit VOCs include:some types of carpet, paint, wood preservatives, plastics, building materials, cleaning agents, solvents, air fresheners, solvent based adhesives, permanent marker pens, cosmetics and petroleum.

VOCs can often be found in higher concentrations in indoor environments than outdoors.

VOCs such as benzene may be produced by photocopiers and printers when in use.

Depending on their concentration, some VOCs are widely believed to have detrimental effects on human health. Some are suspected or known carcinogens.
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Among the VOCs believed to be more dangerous to health are Benzene, Perchloroethylene (dry cleaning fluid) and Methylene Chloride a.k.a. Dichloromethane (found in some spray paints, paint strippers and adhesive removers).

The subject of volatile organic compounds is an extremely complex one, as there may be numerous different VOCs floating around in low concentrations in human environments - and it is thus hard to ascertain exactly how harmful they are. However, contamination of the air by VOCs has become a major subject in the discussion of air quality and health - and concern has increased greatly in recent times over the increase in exposure to chemicals in the modern world. Opinions are diverse as to the level of harm caused by "low level toxicity". There has been an increase in reports of multiple chemical sensitivity in recent years.

Certain types of Air Purifier, such as activated carbon filters, are designed to remove VOCs from the air.

One volatile organic compound that has received much attention in recent times is Formaldehyde.

"There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again." -- Elizabeth Lawrence

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