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Volatile organic compound (VOCs) refers to organic chemical compounds which

have significant vapor pressures and which can affect the environment and human
health. VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous.

This report will emphasize on the effects of VOCs emissions and solution to this
anthropogenic pollutions.



Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are
organic chemical compounds that have high enough
vapor pressures under normal conditions to
significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere.
VOCs are sometimes accidentally released into the
environment, where they can damage soil and
The United States Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) defines a VOC as any organic
compound that participates in a photoreaction;
others believe this definition is very broad and vague as organics that are not volatile in the
sense that they vaporize under normal conditions can be considered volatile by this EPA
definition. The term may refer both to well characterized organic compounds and to mixtures
of variable composition.[13]
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in everything from paints and coatings to
underarm deodorant and cleaning fluids. They are a major concern of the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and state air quality boards all over the United States. VOCs have
been found to be a major contributing factor to ozone, a common air pollutant which has been
proven to be a public health hazard.[1]

Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds

Anthropogenic Sources
The major anthropogenic sources of VOCs:

Solvent Use (including paints, adhesives, Road transport (emissions from fuel /
aerosols, metal cleaning and printing) petroleum use)

Production processes Extraction and distribution of fossil fuels

VOCs by Products

 Benzene  Formaldehyde
 Toluene  Xylene
 Ethylene  Texanol
 Chloride  1,3-butadiene

VOCs emission sources:

 Paints  Upholstery Fabrics
 Varnishes  Adhesives
 Moth balls  Sealing Caulks
 Solvents  Cosmetics
 Gasoline  Air Fresheners
 Newspaper  Fuel Oil
 Cooking  Vehicle Exhaust

Natural Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds

Forests are the primary natural sources of VOC emissions. And tropical forests are estimated
to produce about half of all global natural non-methane VOC emissions. Plants synthesize
many organic molecules and release some VOCs (including a range of terpenes) into the
In total, around 1000 different compounds (with some of which themselves being families
with thousands of their own members) are known to be emitted by natural sources.

Effects of Volatile Organic Compounds

Environmental Effects
VOCs are sometimes accidentally released
into the environment where they can damage soil
and groundwater. Vapors of VOCs escaping into
the air contribute to air pollution
VOCs are an important outdoor air pollutant. In this
field they are often divided into the separate
categories of methane ((CH4) and non-methane
(NMVOCs). Methane is an extremely
efficient greenhouse gas which contributes to
enhanced global warming. Other hydrocarbon VOCs are also significant greenhouse gases via
their role in creating ozone and in prolonging the life of methane in the atmosphere, although
the effect varies depending on local air quality. Within the NMVOCs, the aromatic
compounds benzene, toluene and xylene are suspected carcinogens and may lead
to leukemia through prolonged exposure. 1,3-butadiene is another dangerous compound which
is often associated with industrial uses.
Some VOCs also react with nitrogen oxides in the air in the presence of sunlight to
form ozone. Although ozone is beneficial in the upper atmosphere because it absorbs UV thus
protecting humans, plants, and animals from exposure to dangerous solar radiation, it poses a
health threat in the lower atmosphere by causing respiratory problems. In addition high
concentrations of low level ozone can damage crops and buildings.[13]
Health Effects
Acute Chronic

 Nausea / Vomiting  Cancer

 Dizziness  Liver and Kidney damage
 Asthma exacerbation  Central Nervous System damage
 Eye, Nose, and Throat irritation
 Headaches

Clean Air Act (Environmental Protection Agency - United States of America)

Section 183(e) of the Act directs the EPA to regulate products using best available controls
(BAC), and defines BAC as:
The degree of emissions reduction the Administrator determines, on the basis of technological
and economic feasibility, health, environmental, and energy impacts, is achievable through the
application of the most effective equipment, measures, processes, methods, systems or
techniques, including chemical reformulation, product or feedstock substitution, repackaging,
and directions for use, consumption, storage, or disposal.[6]
Antifouling Coatings
Two commenters requested a higher VOC content limit for the antifouling coating category
(400 g/l proposed), and one of these commenters specifically requested that the EPA increase
the level to 450 g/l. One of the commenters indicated that antifouling architectural coatings are
generally not applied at fixed installations where painting conditions are more easily
controlled, and that a thinning allowance should be included to accommodate application of the
coating in cold weather. [6]

Green House Gases Contributors

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) also have a small direct impact as greenhouse gases, as
well being involved in chemical processes which modulate ozone production. VOCs include
non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), and oxygenated NMHCs (eg. alcohols and organic
acids), and their largest source is natural emissions from vegetation. However, there are some
anthropogenic sources such as vehicle emissions, fuel production and biomass burning.
Though measurement of VOCs is extremely difficult, it is expected that most anthropogenic
emissions of these compounds have increased in recent decades.

Nonmethane volatile organic 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997

(VOC's), total. Mil. metric 18.8 19.0 18.6 18.7 19.3 18.5 17.4 17.34
tons 9 2 3 9 9 6 2
Energy related Mil. metric 8.86 9.10 8.78 8.71 9.00 8.32 8.13 7.72
Stationary source fuel Mil. metric 0.90 0.97 1.00 0.89 0.89 0.97 0.97 0.77
combustion. tons
Transportation.. Mil. metric 7.95 8.13 7.77 7.82 8.11 7.35 7.16 6.95
Industrial processes Mil. metric 8.18 8.33 8.50 8.65 8.79 8.81 8.21 8.52
Solid waste disposal. Mil. metric 0.89 0.91 0.92 0.95 0.95 0.97 0.39 0.41
Other. Mil. metric 0.97 0.69 0.44 0.49 0.64 0.46 0.69 0.70

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United
States, annual. [21]

VOCs Abatement
The following items are commonly used as pollution control devices by industry or
transportation devices. They can either destroy contaminants or remove them from an exhaust
stream before it is emitted into the atmosphere.

• Flares • Vapor recovery systems

• Thermal oxidizers • Cryogenic condensers

• Catalytic converters • Absorption (scrubbing)

• Biofilters • Absorption systems

The emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere contribute to the
formation of the tropospheric ozone (ozone in the lower atmosphere). Large quantities of this
ozone may be harmful to people, vegetation, forests and crops. Sensitive people may suffer
irritation of the throat and eyes, as well as respiratory difficulties. Tropospheric ozone is also a
greenhouse gas. Therefore abatement plans should be taken into measure by everyone and
national authorities must enforce firm laws to ensure the safety of human health and thus to
achieve cleaner environment.

1. http://www.parish-supply.com/volatile_organic_compounds.htm
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatile_organic_compound
3. http://www.croplifeamerica.org/pesticide-issues/clean-air
4. http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html
5. http://www.istc.illinois.edu/info/library_docs/manuals/finishing/regover.htm
6. http://www.cresset.com/epa/vocreg/reg1.htm
7. http://info.sos.state.tx.us/pls/pub/readtac$ext.TacPage?
8. http://www.pmairegs.com/air/definitions.htm
9. http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/encyclopedia/Ca-Clo/Clean-Air-Act.html
10. http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/environment/air_pollution/l28029b_en.htm
11. http://www.mgchemicals.com/news/newsletterQ8/article101206.html
12. http://www.bnl.gov/erd/cleanupdate/vol3no2/vocs32.html
13. http://green.wikia.com/wiki/Volatile_Organic_Compound_(VOC)
14. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/gases.html
15. http://www.naturalgas.org/environment/naturalgas.asp
16. http://www.airqualitynow.eu/pollution_environmental_problems.php#parag4
17. http://ghginstitute.org/2010/06/15/what-are-greenhouse-gases/
18. http://www.corporatecitizenship.novartis.com/environmental-care/hse-
19. http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0215471/global_warming.htm
20. http://www.solcomhouse.com/greenhousegases.htm
21. http://www.allcountries.org/uscensus/395_emissions_of_greenhouse_gases_by_type.html
22. http://www.tropical-rainforest-animals.com/Air-Pollutants.html