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Water for VOC

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Application Overview

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include a wide range of carbon-based molecules that easily evaporate at room temperature. These compounds are usually man-made chemicals, and are used in manufacturing many products. Many commonly used household products contain VOCs (cleaning products, paints, glues, cosmetics, home furnishings, photocopiers, etc.), which can be readily released into the air. In addition, VOCs may be released by factories, gas stations and landfills. They are also naturally emitted by a number of plants and trees.

Some common volatile organic compounds are: acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE, a fuel oxygenate), toluene, xylene, chloroform, trichloroethylene. These compounds may be present in the air, the water and the soil.

There are some concerns about the health effects of VOCs. Depending on the nature of the compound, the level and length of exposure, some VOCs may be carcinogenic or can damage the respiratory and central nervous systems, the liver or the kidneys. In the atmosphere, some VOCs react with airborne pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and generate ozone in the presence of sunlight. Ozone is a respiratory irritant and contributes to the formation of smog.

In order to address these concerns, many countries have initiated efforts to significantly reduce discharge and emission of VOCs in the environment. VOCs are routinely analyzed in water, soil, soil gas and air. These analyses are usually performed using gas chromatography (GC), often coupled with mass spectrometry detection (GC-MS).

Specifications for VOC in drinking water have been established by regulatory agencies in various countries. The list in the table below shows the MAC (Maximum Allowable Concentration) for various VOCs established in the United States, Europe, Japan, China, as well as by the WHO (World Health Organization).

Maximum Allowable Concentration in potable tap water (ppb or µg/L)
VOC US EU Japan China WHO
Benzene 5 1 10 10 10
Bromodichloromethane 100 (*) 30 30 60
Bromoform 100 (**) 100 100
Carbon Tetrachloride 5 0,1 20 2 4
Chlorobenzene 100 300
Chloroform 60 60 200
Dibromochloromethane 100 (*) 100 100 100
1,2-Dichlorobenzene 600 1000 1000
1,4-Dichlorobenzene 75 300 300
1,2-Dichloroethane 5 3 30 30
1,1-Dichloroethene 7 20 30 30
CIS-1,2-Dichloroethene 70 20 50
Trans-1,2-Dichloroethene 100 40 50
1,2-Dichloropropane 5 40
CIS-1,3-Dichloropropene 20
Trans-1,3-Dichloropropene 20
Ethylbenzene 700 300 300
Tetrachloroethylene 5 10 10 40
Toluene 700
1,1,1-Trichloroethane 200
1,1,2-Trichloroethane 5
Trichloroethylene 5 10 30 70
O-Xylene 10000 400 (***) 500 (***)
M-Xylene 10000 400 (***) 500 (***)
P-Xylene 10000 400 (***) 500 (***)
(*) EU - Sum of trihalomethanes < 100 µg/L
(**) Japan - Sum of trihalomethanes (chloroform, dibromochloromethane, bromodichloromethane, bromoform) < 100 µg/L
(***) Sum of xylenes < limit in µg/L
US: EPA - National Primary Drinking Water Standards
EU: COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 98/83/ECof 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption
Japan: Revision of drinking Water Quality Standards in Japan
China: Drinking Water Standards and Monitoring, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre
WHO: Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality -THIRD EDITION -Volume 1 Recommendations (2004)
Note: the data reported in this table is for information only and does not include all chemical substances reported in all norms – It is the responsibility of the user to verify the actual recommendations from the appropriate instances.

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