Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air. An example is formaldehyde, with a boiling point of –19 ºC (–2 ºF), slowly exiting paint and getting into the air.
Many VOCs are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment. VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both man-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Anthropogenic VOCs are regulated by law, especially indoors, where concentrations are the highest. VOCs are typically not acutely toxic, but instead have compounding long-term health effects. Because the concentrations are usually low and the symptoms slow to develop, research into VOCs and their effects is difficult.
Paints and coatings
A major source of man-made VOCs are solvents, especially paints and protective coatings. Solvents are required to spread a protective or decorative film. Approximately 12 billion liters of paints are produced annually. Typical solvents are aliphatic hydrocarbons, ethyl acetate, glycol ethers, and acetone. Motivated by cost, environmental concerns, and regulation, according to Dieter Stoye in \Paints and Coatings\" (Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2006)"
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