VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are EPA regulated contaminants. They can be found in the air we breathe and even in our drinking water. VOCs can be traced back to a variety of common household products from paint thinners to bug sprays. Unfortunately, through spillage and runoff, VOCs can end up in water supplies.

So, here we’ll explore VOCs in a little more detail, how you can check your water supply for the presence of VOCs and how you can remove them from your drinking water.

The VOC Basics:

VOCs are organic chemicals that have a very low boiling point. This means that when they are exposed to the normal air temperatures, they can easily turn into vapors and gases. It is due to this ability to convert to a gas at a temperature well below freezing that they are considered volatile.

Unfortunately, VOCs are widespread throughout our daily lives. They can come from solvents, paint, glues, gasoline, inks, dry erase pens and even magic markers. You may notice the distinct odor when you remove the cap from a permanent marker, and what you are smelling is a VOC releasing vapor into the air after being exposed to room temperature air.

How VOCs Get Into Water:

Most VOCs are present in water supplies as a direct result of human activities. Improper disposal of VOCs can allow them to leach into the ground, where they can migrate into lakes, reservoirs and groundwater supplies.

In some cases, VOCs are created as a result of water disinfection processes. When chlorine or chloramine is combined with organic matter, it can produce VOCs. Unfortunately, waterborne VOCs don’t typically have a distinct smell or taste, which can make them tricky to spot.

Are VOCs Harmful?

VOCs are quite common, particularly in groundwater well supplies. The EPA 23 VOC in its list of regulated compounds. This means that municipal water treatment facilities are required by law to monitor them. Should they rise above the EPA’s maximum contaminant level, the treatment facility needs to take action to reduce them.

Since private water supplies are the responsibility of the homeowner, it is down to individuals to test their water supplies for the presence of VOCs and other contaminants. While there are some inert VOCs, exposure to some VOCs is associated with negative side effects, such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, loss of coordination, nausea and headaches. Prolonged exposure may cause liver, kidney or central nervous system damage. Additionally, some VOCs may be carcinogenic, but this has yet to be definitively proven.

Removing VOCs From Water Supplies:

There are laboratory tests to check levels of VOCs in water supplies and if your water tests are positive, you will need to consider treatment options. Carbon filters can provide an effective option to remove VOCs from water. The activated carbon can absorb carbon based VOCs and these types of filters are available in various sizes, shapes and applications.

So, whether you want a point of use filtration system for your kitchen or a whole home system to ensure that you’re bathing in VOC free water, there are available options.

If you have concerns about VOCs in your water, be sure to speak to your local water treatment specialist. An experienced technician can not only test your water for the presence of VOCs, but also guide you through the variety of available water treatment solutions.