What is a volatile organic compound (VOC)?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include a wide range of both natural and synthetic substances. VOCs are chemical compounds – mixtures of more than one element – where one of the elements is carbon. They are described as volatile because they evaporate easily, releasing molecules into the atmosphere.
There are many tools available for the detection of VOCs. A commonly used, proven method which rapidly detects a wide range of VOC over the concentrations of interest is photoionisation detection (PID). PIDs are available in a number of forms, including PID sensors and handheld, personal and fixed PID instruments.
Air pollution is now something we are all aware of and is often included alongside UV levels on weather forecasts. VOCs are themselves directly an air pollutant but also have secondary effects. When sunlight and heat react with VOCs, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (gasses released from many industrial process and vehicles) ozone is generated and smog is formed.
The individual components of smog can compromise human health and harm the environment –mixed together they form a deadly cocktail. Smog can cause or aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems. The ozone in smog also inhibits plant growth and can cause widespread damage to forests and crops.
These and other potentially hazardous volatile organic compounds including benzene, toluene, ethylene, xylene, and formaldehyde require careful monitoring.