Where Do VOCs Come From?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are a large group of chemicals that are found in many products we use to build and maintain the built environment. Once these chemicals are used or stored in the built environment they are released or “off-gas” into the indoor air we breathe. They may or may not be able to be smelled, and smelling is not a good indicator of health risk.

What Are the Health Effects of VOCs?

The risk of any effects from inhaling chemicals depends on the concentration of the chemical in the air, how long it is in the air and how often it is inhaled by someone. When being analyzed, scientists consider short-term exposures, which are calculated in hours or days, and long–term exposures, which can be months or even a lifetime.

Breathing lower levels of VOCs for a long period of time may increase risk of health problems in some people. On the other hand, several different studies suggest that people who already have asthma or are particularly sensitive to chemicals tend to experience symptoms in shorter time. However, this exposure is much different to occupational VOC exposure.

As VOCs refer to a complete group of chemicals, each chemical has its own level of toxicity and comes with its own potential for adversely affecting health. Some of the most common symptoms of VOC exposure include:

Building Materials

  • Paint, varnishes, caulks, adhesives

  • Carpet, vinyl flooring

  • Composite wood products

  • Upholstery and foam

Home & Personal Care Products

  • Air fresheners, cleaning products

  • Cosmetics

  • Fuel oil, gasoline


  • Smoking

  • Dry cleaning, photocopiers

  • Cooking, hobbies

  • Burning wood

The easiest way to limit VOCs inside the built environment is to cut down the potential sources of VOCs. Get in touch with us at 509-759-7480 to learn more about our VOC testing services.