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Do you ever get headaches or feel sick at home or at work for no apparent reason? Do you feel fine after you leave an environment that you feel sick in, and then feel sick again when you return to that environment? If so, it is entirely possible that the building you feel sick in contains one or more toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOC).

VOC's are known to cause a number of adverse reactions in humans, such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea & vomiting, dizziness, and worsening of asthma symptoms. Long-Term (chronic) symptoms of exposure to high levels of VOCs are an increased risk of cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, and central nervous system damage. Some doctors believe that VOC exposure can cause Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome (MCS) while other doctors disagree. But when you are afflicted with MCS,  you don't want differing opinions, you want relief.

Multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome is a disorder that seems to be triggered by exposure to low levels of multiple identifiable or unidentifiable chemical substances commonly present in the environment. 1  MCS is more common among women than men. In addition, 40% of people with chronic fatigue syndrome and 16% of people with fibromyalgia have multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome as well.

Some people start having symptoms after a single exposure to high levels of various toxic substances. Symptoms may include a rapid heart rate, chest pain, sweating, shortness of breath, fatigue, flushing, dizziness, nausea, choking, trembling, numbness, coughing, hoarseness, and difficulty concentrating.

Your doctor can perform testing to diagnose allergic disorders, including blood and skin-prick tests. AMI can perform VOC testing on your home or any other indoor environment to determine what chemicals are present.

For more specific information regarding your personal concerns about toxic chemicals in your building, call AMI to speak to a Certified Professional.



General Information on Volatile Organic Compounds

 How Are VOC's Sampled?  
  The best way to sample the widest range of compounds with the greatest of ease is TO-15, a sophisticated canister technology capable of seeing parts per trillion of certain volatile organic compounds. The GC/MS instrument also makes it possible to look at ‘unknown compounds’ and make tentative identifications. It is this versatility that makes TO-15 one of the most powerful tools used for investigation and for any initial evaluation.

The TO-15 analysis as written by the EPA refers to a specific 63 compound list of regulated compounds. The list was developed to support the Clean Air Act. AMI will also perform a non-target compound library search. This will provide a listing of up to 10-20 extra compounds that are not targets. These compounds are referred to tentatively identified compounds (TICs).


 Where Do VOC's Come From?  
  Many products we have in our homes release or “off-gas” VOCs. Some examples of sources of VOCs are:
  1. Building Materials: Carpets and adhesives, Composite wood products, Paints, Sealing caulks, Solvents, Upholstery fabrics, Varnishes, Vinyl Flooring
  2. Home and Personal Care Products: Air fresheners, Air cleaners that produce ozone, Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, Cosmetics, Moth balls, Aerosol spray products
  3. Professional Shop Products: Hair sprays and dyes, Nail polish and removers, Printing supplies, Fuel oil, Gasoline, Vehicle exhaust, Freon
  4. Common Every Day Behaviors: Cooking, Dry-cleaning
  5. Other: Hobbies, Newspapers, Non-electric space heaters, Smoking, Photocopiers, Stored paints and chemicals, Wood burning stoves

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 What Are the Health Effects of VOC Exposure?  
  Each VOC chemical has its own toxicity and potential for causing different health effects. The possible risk of health effects from inhaling any chemical depends on how much is in the air, how long and how often a person breathes it in. Scientists look at short-term (acute) exposures as hours to days or long-term (chronic) exposures as years to even lifetime.

Common symptoms of exposure to VOCs include:

Short-Term (Acute) to high levels of VOCs

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Worsening of asthma symptoms

Long-Term (Chronic) to high levels of VOCs Increased risk of:

  • Cancer
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Central Nervous System damage

The best health protection measure is to limit your exposure to products and materials that contain VOCs when possible. If you think you may be having health problems caused by VOCs, call AMI to discuss VOC testing in your home or work place. 1-800-369-8532

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1. Merck Online Medical Library




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