How Can VOCs Affect Human Health?

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  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air, a trait known as volatility.

    Whether or not a person will have health effects after breathing in VOCs depends on:

    • The toxicity of the chemical

      The amount of harm that can be caused by contact with the chemical.

    • How much of the chemical is in the air

      The higher the concentration of VOCs in the air, the more damage occurs to the physiology of the person breathing the air.

    • How long and how often the air is breathed

      The longer a person is in contact, whether through touching or breathing chemicals that have a high VOC content, the more damage is don.

    Differences in age, health condition, gender and exposure to other chemicals also can affect whether or not a person will have negative health effects from coming in contact with high-VOC chemicals.

    Chemicals can enter the body through three major pathways (breathing, touching or swallowing). This is referred to as exposure. So if you smoke off a pipe that smells like an orange (which is caused by the chemical D-Limonene, which is 100% VOC), there is a high liklihood you are being exposed to VOCs and directly inhaling them into you lungs!

    Short-term exposure to high levels of some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, nausea and eye and respiratory irritation. All commercially available and home made bong and glass cleaning solutions, besides the Klear Kryptonite line of cleaners, are 100% VOC.

    Negative effects that users experience from exposure to VOCs usually go away after the exposure stops. In laboratory animals, longterm exposure to high levels of some VOCs has caused cancer and affected the liver, kidney and nervous system.

    In general, we recommend minimizing exposure to chemicals, if possible. We agree with what many government-funded and independent studies have found: limit your exposure to any products that contain high levels of VOCs. That includes home made cleaners and all other commercially available bong cleaners.

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