Sources of Pollution
As we become more aware of our environmental obligations to protect our
energy resources, and perhaps our pockets, work environments are becoming more
air tight to insulate against energy loss.
We are also using more synthetic materials and chemicals. Therefore, such
contaminates within the workplace can crescendo to an unacceptable cocktail of
emissions. Some compounds can take up to six
months for vaporised chemicals to dissipate.
Research concluded that VOCs are higher in new buildings, than old; and
3 times higher in buildings built after 1982, than in buildings built before
1940. New furniture can double emissions
in the environment, whilst the accumulation of painting or decorating can
triple the emission levels.
Individually the contribution from one product may not be significant;
however a cumulative level can create a chemical soup of emissions to cause
With hundreds of varied compounds present within our homes, typical
health effects can include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches,
migraines, nausea and the feeling of dizziness. For those who
are chemical sensitive, it can also exacerbate asthma.
2004 research concluded that mothers who used air fresheners daily
suffered almost 10% more headaches than those who used them less than once a
week. And that of the mothers who used
air fresheners, 16% suffered from depression compared with 12.7 % of
those mothers who hardly ever used air fresheners.
Some synthetic compounds can enter into your human tissue and stay for
years causing carcinogenic activities. High concentrations of VOCs can affect
your central nervous system, cause depression and/or sensitivity to certain
Open a magazine, purchase new furniture or sitting behind the wheel of a
new car can create a carnal attraction. It is not just
our eyes and ears that are influenced by the marketing of products, some
manufacturers infuse smells within their merchandise to entice the
Car manufacturers have recognised this sensual secret and have been
using bottled scent that encapsulates the allurement of a new car; the
discerning buyer whiffing leather and mahogany, rather than plastic or
Indeed to improve customer satisfaction with their new vehicles Rolls
Royce analysed a 1965 Silver Cloud and discovered over 800 compounds that could
be reproduced to create a ‘new car smell’, which has been used by other car
However the alluring bouquet of VOCs can, for some people, be offensive
and even cause adverse effects. Manufacturers are beginning to incorporate VOC
reduction within their environment strategies.
Paints contribute towards less than 1% of all man-made VOCs in the UK,
however the British Coating Industry have adopted a volunteer industry
agreement to display VOC labels on all decorative coatings. The VOC labels
are divided into five ‘bands’ showing minimal;
low; medium; high or very high VOC content.
As our evolving awareness of our interaction with our environment
becomes paramount, we must conversely understand how the environment interacts
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) is a collective term given to a variety of chemical compounds that vapourise under normal conditions entering our indoor environment. It is considered that about 350 different types of VOCs are present in our indoor environment.
VOCs are emitted from a number of sources including processes, furnishings, equipment, substances and even people.
VOCs are a chemical compound that has a high enough vapour pressure to evaporate into the atmosphere at room temperature, potentially causing health effects within the environment. VOCs are essentially an air contaminate. Outside they also contribute towards global warming.
Key advice for reducing the VOCs:
of the products you use and bring into your environment
manufacturers VOC emissions from their products.
- Use more
organic, nature products or low VOC products.
- Use water
based decoration coatings.
- Limit the
use of aerosols.
importantly ensure your workplace is well ventilated.
products that contain the following emissions:
(solvent in printing, rubber and leather industries)
chloride (solvent, paint stripper, decreaser, aresol spray propelants)
(solvent in dry cleaning, degreaser, paint stripper)
(Preservation, disinfectants, solvents, photography processing)
glycol (anti-freeze, often used in cars)
(Nylon, tyres,synthetic rubber)
(used in flavours and perfume)
(used in comestics, hairdye, herbicides)
(Solvent, cleaner, usually for electriconic products)
(Solvent, paint thinner, nail polish remover, dry agent)