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HC-Pedia Entry

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)


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VOCs are compounds that evaporate from housekeeping, maintenance and building products made with organic chemicals. Evaporation occurs from both products in use and those in storage.


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VOCs include many of the useful solvent-based spot cleaners listed in HC-Pedia, such as isopropyl alcohol, acetone, mineral spirits and paint thinner; dry-cleaning chemicals such as perchloroethane; and some commercial preparations. Many VOCs are flammable.


These compounds and their vapors can irritate eyes, nose and throat; cause headaches, dizziness; or impair vision or memory. Some VOCs are known to cause cancer in humans and animals, while others are suspected human carcinogens. Not much is known about health effects of VOCs in concentrations typically found in public spaces such as commercial buildings.


For safety’s sake, read and follow all label directions on cleaning products. In general, labels on products containing VOCs will advise wearing eye and skin protection; promoting good ventilation; and avoiding smoking or using the product near any source of sparks or flame.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs):  Created on November 3rd, 2009.  Last Modified on November 3rd, 2009


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