VOC's and Aqueous Cleaning Products

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Getting Around Volatile Organic Compounds with Aqueous Cleaning Products

Before we look at ways to avoid or eliminate Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), we should take a minute and define what VOC’s are. VOCs are basically chemicals that contain carbon and evaporate at room temperature and pressure. The term includes all sorts of common solvents (e.g. mineral spirits-based parts washer solutions, methanol, etc.) and even common everyday items like paints, deodorants, and cleaning products.

As defined in Federal Regulation, 40 CFR Part 51.100(s), VOCs are any carbon compounds, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, & ammonium carbonate, that participate in atmospheric photochemical reactions.

As VOCs evaporate and chemically react with car emissions and other pollutants they form ground-level ozone (i.e. smog). Ozone is a reactive compound that attacks the lungs, contributing to respiratory problems such as asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis, and according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs can have other negative health effects like eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, liver and kidney damage, and some have even been linked to cancers.

So by all accounts, VOC’s are considered to be very harmful to us and the environment in general.

In an effort to improve and control air quality standards The Clean Air Actwas initiated in 1970, which aimed to regulate air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Since then, VOCs have been regulated as “ozone precursors” under the U.S. Clean Air Act and other individual state laws. To reduce ozone levels, the EPA has issued regulations to reduce VOC emissions from a wide array of sources, including cleaning products. Sometimes, in the case of cleaning products, the regulations do not eliminate the use of VOCs, but rather limit the amount of VOCs that can be used in product categories


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