Controlling emissions of volatile organic compounds

Reducing transboundary air pollution from volatile organic compounds

Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the resulting secondary photochemical oxidant products are causing damage in exposed parts of Europe and North America to natural resources of vital environmental and economic importance and, under certain exposure conditions, have harmful effects on human health.

VOCs, nitrogen oxides and resulting ozone are transported across international boundaries, affecting air quality in neighbouring States. The mechanism of photochemical oxidant creation is such that the reduction of emissions of VOCs is necessary in order to reduce the incidence of photochemical oxidants. Volatile organic compounds differ greatly from each other in their reactivity and in their potential to create tropospheric ozone and other photochemical oxidants and that, for any individual compounds, potential may vary from time to time and from place to place depending on meteorological and other factors.

"Volatile organic compounds", or "VOCs'', means, all organic compounds of anthropogenic nature, other than methane, that are capable of producing photochemical oxidants by reactions with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight.


Using low off-gassing products in the household reduces emissions of VOCs. Sealing VOC sources (such as particle board) with impermeable barriers like polyurethane varnish or latex paint further reduces emissions. Allowing the gases from new furnishings and building materials to be given off in storage for a few weeks or even months before use reduces emissions in the household. If this is not possible, increasing the ventilation in the affected area(s) by opening windows and doors dissipates emissions. Paints, cleaners and solvents - buy small quantities- just enough for immediate use. Follow instructions for use. Recycle old or not needed tins and bottles. Store in separate buildings or areas with a separate exhaust. Do not mix different household cleaners or solvents together. Keep lids on tight. Do not allow smoking near VOCs. Air dry cleaned clothing to dissipate VOC emissions. New carpets: roll out and allow to air in storage before installation. if glues are necessary, use ones which are low emission. Leave premises while carpets are being installed. Ventilate - use fans, and open windows and doors for the first few days or weeks after carpets are installed. Ventilation: increase ventilation (open windows) when new VOC sources are brought into a house or building (e.g. new carpets, furniture, drapes etc.). Follow manufacturers' labels when using household chemicals containing VOCs. If they say "use in well ventilated area" use them only outside or where an exhaust fan or open windows will provide extra ventilation.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy