Other Air Pollutants

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds are gases in the vapours of gasoline, solvents, oil-based paint. In the presence of sunlight and warm temperatures, VOCs react with nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog.

Health effects of VOCs:

  • eye, nose and throat irritation
  • headaches
  • loss of coordination
  • nausea
  • can worsen lung, heart and other existing health problems when they combined with nitrogen oxide to form ground-level ozone

Sources of VOCs

  • burning gasoline
  • upstream oil and gas production
  • residential wood burning
  • evaporation of liquid fuels and solvents
  • new carpets and furniture

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

These are a group of approximately 10,000 compounds. Most PAHs are from incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials like oil, wood, garbage or coal. PAHs may be attached to dust or ash.

Health effects of PAHs:

  • lung irritation
  • contact with skin may cause redness, blistering, and peeling
  • Some PAHs have caused cancer in laboratory animals when they breathed air containing them (lung cancer), ingested them in food (stomach cancer), or had them applied to their skin (skin cancer)1.

Sources of PAHs:

  • furnaces
  • automobile and other exhausts
  • fireplaces and woodstoves
  • cigarette smoke
  • coal and oil-fired power plants
  • waste incinerators
  • steel and asphalt production
  • aluminum smelting
  • carbon black production
  • wood preservation
  • forest and brush fires
  • volcanic eruptions
  • decaying organic matter



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Page Last Updated: 12/10/2016