Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
What are VOCs?

VOCs are a diverse group of organic compounds that evaporate at room temperature.
In a typical indoor environment of modern buildings, there are over 100 compounds that are classified as VOCs from a variety of sources:
  • New building materials such as adhesives and sealants
  • New carpet or furnishings
  • Cleaning agents
  • Paints and solvents
  • Office equipment such as computer terminals, fax machines, laser printers, photocopiers and carbonless paper

Emissions from most building materials are highest when the materials are new or newly exposed to the environment. Emissions decrease rapidly thereafter, and then more slowly with time. In general, the older the building, the lower the VOC concentration.

Health effects of VOCs:
  • Eye irritation
  • Skin irritation
  • Some people complain of abnormal taste and odour

VOCs have been implicated in Sick Building Syndrome, but the results of epidemiological studies have not been consistent.

How to reduce VOCs in the indoor environment
  • Maintain good ventilation for the premises
  • Provide exhaust ventilation to potential VOC sources
  • Schedule redecoration or renovation work to unoccupied periods
  • Before a new building is occupied, allow a flush-out period to avoid exposure of the occupants to potentially harmful off gassing of VOCs.
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