VOC - Volatile Organic Compounds
The European Union Directive 2004/42/CE defines a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) as:
any organic compound having an initial boiling point less than or equal to 250°C measured at a standard pressure of 101,3 kPa;
The reason this type of chemical is a concern is that the low boiling point leads to the release of a large number of potentially hazardous molecules into the air as the chemical evaporates or sublimates, affecting life and the environment.
One the main causes for concern is their use within paint and protective coatings due to their need for solvent content. The market has responded to demand and regulation to produce low VOC alternatives.
The main health risks associated with exposure to VOC emissions include eye, throat, nose and skin irritation, along with nausea. Some VOCs are also linked with cancer, damage to the central nervous system and major bodily organs.
Sick Building Syndrome causes can often be linked back to VOCs coming from materials used in its construction/refurbishment.
In addition to man made sources, VOCs also occur in nature.