What are VOCs and what effect do they have on our health?

Volatile organic compounds, often abbreviated as VOCs are a group of chemicals based on carbon atoms. Due to the number of compounds that can be referred to as VOCs, their exact definition depends on the issue at hand. For the purposes of this entry, we can assume that they are gases with characteristic, distinct odors.

Most household products from cleaning products to perfumes, food or building materials contain such compounds in them. They also occur naturally, of course, and are emitted by plants or animals. A very popular naturally occurring and massively used volatile organic compound is limonene, the substance responsible for the smell of citrus.

VOCs and health

Because of the number of substances that can be classified as VOCs, the answer to the question “Do VOCs threaten my health?” is not simple. Most naturally occurring aromatics are not harmful, but prolonged exposure to rooms with high concentrations of them can cause irritation and allergic reactions in people who have such allergies.

Far more dangerous are compounds from “chemistry” in the broadest sense, that is, man-made substances – paints, fuels, adhesives, detergents, etc. These substances can prove toxic in already much lower concentrations, and it is unhealthy to spend time in closed rooms where walls have been freshly painted or new carpet has been glued on. Children are particularly susceptible to irritation from inhaling VOCs. The most typical symptoms are irritation of mucous membranes, headaches, nausea and, in extreme cases, even serious respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

A simple solution to complex issues

Although the vast majority of VOCs are substances with characteristic, intense odors, there are also some that are not detectable to humans. This poses a more serious risk, as an organoleptic assessment of air quality, or simply a deep breath, is not a reliable indicator of whether the air is clean and fresh.

A useful solution for places where high concentrations of VOCs are feared is the Espirio system. Designed to improve health and comfort, as well as work efficiency, it is equipped with a number of sensors that measure noise, lighting, temperature and humidity, and most importantly, the quality of the inhaled air, i.e. the concentration of PM2.5 and PM10, carbon dioxide, and finally the level of VOCs. The small size of the device will find use in the office, school or home – the installation requires only a connection to a WiFi network, on the spot giving the user real-time readings.