If you open a canister of traditional cleaning solvent, you might notice a strong, earthy, chemical smell that emanates from the solvent within. The aroma may even make make you wince, feel as if you had a bad sinus infection, and make it harder to breathe for a few hours. If you had to make a guess about what you were smelling, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) would be a good bet. Below, we explain why.
What are VOCs?
VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature (around 72 degrees). The high vapor pressure is a direct result of the solvents’ low boiling points. Their speedy transition from liquid to vapor gives VOCs their “volatile” nature. What you smell in the air after you open the solvent canister are VOCs that have already evaporated. Common examples of VOCs include: benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylene glycol, to name just a few.
Low VOC Data
Many VOCs evaporate so quickly that it’s impossible for those who work with the compounds not to inhale them, unless they are outfitted with Level 3 personal protective equipment (PPE) that features a respirator that removes airborne contaminants. Just how easily can VOCs vaporize? Consider formaldehyde, which has an exceptionally low boiling point of –19 °C (–2 °F). Open a canister of this VOC, and its vapor will fill the profusely in a matter of minutes.
In addition to equipping workers with high-level PPE, many companies and organizations that use VOC solvents offer protection by running air filtration systems that snare airborne contaminants. However, from a perspective of cost effectiveness and human safety, the best option is simply to replace high VOC solvents with low VOC formulations or blends that have no VOCs.
In general, the term “low VOC” describes a solvent whose VOC content is at or below 150 g/L. A solvent that has low VOC content usually isn’t as safe as one that has no VOCs. Low VOC content can cause negative health effects — both acute and chronic — due to overexposure to the solvent that contains the hazardous compounds.
VOC exposure is recognized as acute or chronic. Acute, short-term exposure is known to produce symptoms that dissipate within a few hours or a few days, including: headaches, dizziness, and respiratory distress. Chronic, long-term exposure can cause symptoms that are permanent, such as: cancer, liver damage, and central nervous system (CNS) damage. Again, when it comes to protecting workers from VOCs, using low VOC or no VOC solvents is the best option.
If your company or organization needs an efficacious, industrial grade, low VOC cleaning solvent, contact us today at (800) 563-1305, or use the contact form on our website. We look forward to supplying you with a stock solvent or a custom formulated solvent that meets your cleaning requirements. We’ll even send you a free sample of the solvent on request. VOCs are dangerous; we give you the opportunity to take the danger out of your cleaning process.