Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemical substances that include carbon and hydrogen, and to a lesser extent other elements such as sulfur or nitrogen. They are characterized by being highly volatile and are found in a gaseous state at room temperature.

Its presence is very common in enclosed spaces, such as homes and offices. They are slowly released from the following products:

  • Solvents in paint, glues, varnishes and degreasers.
  • Plastics and furniture.
  • Cleaning products, among others.

They may be of natural origin, but man-made ones are of particular concern. To summarise, they include: aromatic solvents, alkanes, terpenes, siloxanes, aldehydes and ketones, esters, glycols, phenols, amines, isocyanates, etc.


They are produced mainly by inhalation.

  • Allergies, nausea and irritation of eyes and respiratory tract.
  • Lack of memory, difficulty concentrating, irritability, headache, fatigue, fatigue, etc.
  • Injuries to the liver, lungs, kidneys and central nervous system.
  • Some VOCs have been classified as carcinogenic, such as benzene or formaldehyde.

They derive from their properties:

  • Fat soluble: They accumulate in the fatty tissues of the organism.
  • Volatile: They pollute indoor air and are inhaled by living beings.
  • Toxic: Most of them cause allergic reactions or dizziness. 
  • Flammable: Only of concern at high concentrations
  • Chemical reactivity. They generate ground-level ozone by combining with the nitrogen oxides emitted by diesel vehicles, causing respiratory damage.


A room should be odour neutral, or at the very least, it should not have an unpleasant smell. We must rely on our sense of smell and if an odour is somewhat annoying, it is best to eliminate it. In any case, smell also has its limitations, as some Volatile Organic Compounds are odourless.

It is advisable to ventilate the home every day and to use plants as air purifiers, as they help to absorb volatile compounds. It is also important to look at the VOC label on paints. A good paint should not contain more than 1 g/l VOC.

If you smell a solvent odour and cannot identify the source, you can opt for an expert VOC measurement, which can identify about a hundred volatile organic substances and in what concentrations. This measurement can help to find the source of the odour in order to eliminate it, as well as to clarify the toxicity of the air.