If you don’t work in the area of science or healthcare, then you might have never heard of the term “VOCs”. VOCs stands for Volatile Organic Compounds and are often analysed in healthcare as they can easily be found in your breath. It’s the analysis of VOC gases from human breath that can help medical experts determine or diagnose potential disease. Ultimately, it can be life-changing technology. But, you may be surprised to learn that some of our everyday products or household items contain VOCs.
VOCs are compounds that easily become gases or vapours and are made up of lots of different elements where one of the elements is carbon. They evaporate easily at room temperature and at any one time there can be from 50 to hundreds of individual VOCs in the air that we breath. Many VOCs can often give off a scent, whilst others do not smell at all.
You might be interested to know that VOCs aren’t only found in chemical rich products like gasoline, petrol that you will use to fill your tank or paints and wood stains. VOCs are also found in personal care products such as perfumes, deodorants and even food and drink. There are a wide variety of VOCs found in food and beverages, they can often be emitted during food production processes like fermentation or cooking. Compounds can range from alcohols, fats, oils, pre-washed salads and the like.
Imspex has a history of working with food production clients on testing their products as part of a quality control process. Using their Flavourspec technology can help clients to understand how a change in recipe or formulation affects the products flavour – ideal for VOCs food production QC. Another example includes fried foods or crisps – once exposed to light or temperature, this can have an affect on their flavour or best before date as they start to release VOCs like aldehydes, ketones or acids. VOCs analysis in beer brewing is another area of interest for Flavourspec. Quantification of vicinal diketones can ensure quality of the beer being produced is of a high standard every time.
There have been various studies over time on VOCs detection in our wastewater systems. When we think of wastewater from the home, we probably assume anything that is flushed down our toilet when in actual fact this can mean washing water from washing machines, dish washing, washing your car or excess liquids like un-drunk drinks, cooking oil and cleaning products like bleach or antibacterial sprays. The potential problem with these wastewaters from our homes is that they produce VOCs like methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and other potentially harmful substances. This can of course see harmful effects on our water based wildlife and ecosystems. Of course wastewater treatment plants and practices can help to clean up our wastewaters but detection is key to identifying some of the largest contributors to harmful VOCs. Imspex’s leading GC-IMS technology combines gas chromatography with ion mobility spectrometry to identify and quantify marker compounds.
Over exposure to harmful VOCs in our homes can have short-term health effects on us and our families much like they do with our ecosystems when we flush them away. Especially those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma or respiratory difficulties.
There are many ways you can reduce your exposure to household VOCs including:
- Increasing regular ventilation such as opening windows, particularly when using paints and chemical based home improvement products.
- Purchasing eco-friendly cleaning products that are lower in VOCs.
- Using an air purifying system.
- Using natural or eco-friendly personal care products like hair and body sprays.
- Switching to an electric-powered vehicle.
To find out more about VOCs and our technology designed to detect them, click here.