Definition and principal sources

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Health Effects

The effects of VOC’s on humans is variable depending on the length of time exposed and the VOC exposed too. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation/discomfort,
  • Headaches and dizziness,
  • Allergic skin reaction,
  • Loss of coordination,
  • Nausea (Felling sick),
  • Fatigue,
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breating),
  • Emesis (Vomitting),
  • Epistaxis (Nose Bleeds),
  • Damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system,
  • Declines in serum cholinesterase levels (which control central nervous system),
  • It is also known and suspected that some VOC’s cause cancer.

Some organics can also cause health issues for animals


No standards have been set for VOCs in residential environments.

EPA – Steps to reduce exposure

EPA – Technical overview


What’s in the Air


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