Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Drinking Water

Analytical testing dots

Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) in drinking water are hazardous to human health. The risk to human health is a function of the exposure route, level of exposure, and length of the exposure. In general, exposure to low levels of certain VOCs over long periods of time may lead to impaired immune system function, may damage the liver or increase the risk of cancer.

VOCs are a class of carbon-containing chemicals and are found in a variety of commercial, industrial, and residential products, including gasoline, solvents, cleaners and degreasers, paints, inks and dyes, and pesticides. VOCs evaporate easily into air at ambient temperatures and when in contact with water may dissolve in and be transported by water. In addition, the dissolved VOCs in water may vaporize out of water into the air.

Due to the inherent chemical and physical characteristics of VOCs, sampling and analysis of VOCs in water must be properly designed to reduce the volatile loss. Loss of the volatile compounds during sampling or analysis will result in false negatives or biased-low results thus leading to wrongful conclusions on the drinking water quality.