The CMM Group Guide to Volatile Organic Compound Abatement

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VOC Abatement Guide
VOC Abatement Guide
What does new car smell have in common with freshly baked bread? The same thing it has
in common with diesel emissions, dry cleaning solution, a can of paint, and a vast majority of
manufacturing emissions. All of these are the result of volatile organic compounds (VOCs),
carbon-based compounds that exist as a gas in normal temperature and pressure. Many of
these compounds are responsible for adverse health, economic, and environmental effects.
The CMM Group, a trusted leader in Air Pollution Control Systems for manufacturers ranging
from aerospace to wood finishing, has written this VOC Abatement Guide in order to educate
you about volatile organic compounds, direct and indirect health and environmental effects,
the role of regulators in ensuring manufacturers cut back on VOC emissions, and some of
the most effective ways to remove VOCs from your manufacturing processes.
What Are VOCS?
VOCs are short for Volatile Organic Compounds, which in turn can be summarized as
nearly any compound containing carbon that is gas at normal atmospheric temperature
and pressure—excluding certain compounds like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide,
carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate.
The designation of “volatile” occurs when the chemical compound has an initial boiling point
less than or equal to 250° C measured at a standard atmospheric pressure of 101.3 kPa. In
turn, these compounds are broken down into three categories:
• Very volatile organic compounds (VVOC):
Considered volatile at a temperature ranging from <0° C to 50-100° C.
• Volatile organic compounds (VOC):
Become gaseous at temperatures ranging from 50-100° C to 240–260° C
• Semi Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs):
Become gaseous/volatile at temperatures ranging from 240–260° C to 380–400° C
Organic is a relatively simple term that means “containing carbon.” Carbon is a natural
building block of the world, as it is small enough to form bonds with nearly every element.
For example, carbon can bond with itself in stable rings to form diamonds, can form chains,
or can form compounds of varying stability.
Carbon binds with many different elements to form compounds. At present, there have been
over 10 million organic compounds discovered and documented. Of these, more than 12,000
are considered volatile, in that vapor degrades into the air from a liquid or that the compound
exists in the form of a gas at room temperature and pressure.
VOC Abatement Guide
Why Does It Matter? Dangers of VOCS
The danger of VOCs is threefold, as exposure to certain VOCs can cause direct impact
on human health. Additionally, VOCs can react with each other or with hazardous air
pollutants in heat or sunlight to form other dangerous compounds. Finally, VOCs react
with nitrogen-based oxides (NOx) in sunlight to form ground-level ozone (O3), which has
its own negative effects on humans, plants, and more.
Transported through air and water, VOCs can cause a broad range of health and
environmental impacts.
Exposure to VOCs Causes Adverse Health Effects
When emitted within a building, VOCs can cause a multitude of adverse health effects
(cancerous and non-cancerous). The EPA has created the Integrated Risk Information
System (IRIS) to track the impact of organic and inorganic compounds on the human body.
Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains exposure
limits to specific VOCs, among other chemicals, on their “Limits for Air Contaminants”
regulations page.
VOCs pose additional health, economic, and environmental impacts when emitted outdoors.
As they are small enough to be carried by air, these compounds can travel with weather
patterns or wind to new locations, or end up in waterways and drinking wells.
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VOC Abatement Guide