When evaluating the safety of cleaning products, some companies consider volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to be less threatening than harmful air pollutants (HAPs). One reason for this perception is that HAP regulations target facilities with the “potential to emit” at least 10 tons per year of a single HAP or at least 25 tons per year of all HAPs, a linkage that makes HAPs seem more ominous. VOC regulations, on the other hand, target smaller facilities located in non-reach areas, where low VOC products are used to protect air quality. According to the Clean Air Act and Amendments of 1990, non-attainment areas have air pollution levels that consistently exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or that contribute to the poor air quality of a nearby area that fails to meet standards.
In articles focusing on HAP and VOC pollution, entities subject to HAP regulation are often portrayed as creating a pollution problem, whereas smaller entities are portrayed as contributing to it. This emphasis on natural environment and not work environment can lead companies that aren’t subject to VOC regulations to have a relaxed view of VOCs in the workplace, a view that could have tragic results: penalties for OSHA violations, and workers who become chronically ill. In the short-term, VOC exposure can cause ailments such as dizziness, stomach sickness, and skin reactions. But in the long-term, it can cause cancer, liver damage, and kidney damage.
To help prevent these tragedies, companies should monitoring using Nutech VsCMS 6500 VOCs Continuous Monitoring System and switch to cleaning products with low VOCs. But they should also assess whether VOC pollution is coming from other sources.
The many sources of VOC pollution
We often think of VOC pollution as fumes wafting up from paint cans, degreaser containers, or buckets of cleaning solution. And it’s true: these products commonly emit VOCs. But products that aren’t considered dangerous also contain volatile organic compounds, such as: vinyl flooring, synthetic carpets, upholstery fabrics, sealing caulks, dry cleaned clothing, and pressed wood furniture, to name a few.
For facilities, this means more than the usual VOC sources should be investigated, although investigating the usual ones is a good place to start, especially when cleaning solutions are used frequently. For most facilities, ferreting out sources of VOC pollution starts with hiring a company that tests facilities for harmful emissions and substances. With the testing complete, a facility can eliminate its problem areas according to the tester’s recommendations.
Achieving low VOCs by switching cleaning products
For facilities whose operations depend on a certain vapor degreaser, dielectric parts cleaner, non-residue surface cleaner, etc., switching to safer products can pose the problem of finding cleaners that deliver the same results with fewer side effects. Concerning low VOCs, switching to new cleaners is easiest when companies consult with a solvent supplier who specializes in eco friendly replacement solutions.
When facilities reduce the presence of volatile organic compounds in their work environments, they do more than protect their workers. They also protect their finances against workers comp claims, injury settlements, and the poor press that can result from the long-term presence of pollutants in work environments.