Detecting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

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VOCs are chemical compounds, they are described as volatile because they evaporate easily, releasing molecules into the atmosphere, your exposure to VOCs can be monitored using gas detection equipment.

ION Science manufactures gas detection equipment for monitoring exposure to toxic levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOC Issues In Heavy Industries

The most well known threats to workers from VOCs are their toxic effects.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a fundamental parameter in assessing air quality. The European Environment Agency (EEA) reported in 2018 that air pollution was the cause of almost 50,000 premature deaths in Europe per year. This finding pre-empted the head of the EEA agency stating “Air pollution is an invisible killer and we need to step up our efforts to address the causes,”.
– BBC News

Not only do fugitive emissions from heavy industrial plants result in health & safety and environmental problems, there are also economic implications. It is estimated over £80million worth of VOCs being released into the atmosphere each year.

Projects Systems Technologies, Oil & Gas Facilities

Health and Safety Issues

Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) gases are found in almost every industry. Typically, in heavier industries, especially steel foundries and refineries the concentrations of VOCs are higher. Also the more hazardous VOCs such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) are likely to be present. The risks associated with VOCs include:

  • Health and Safetyvoc-issues-factory-image
  • Environmental
  • Economic

The most well known threats to workers from VOCs are their multiple toxic effects. The effects we are most familiar with are the acute risks, such as, eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness and at high concentrations unconsciousness and even death. However, the potentially larger threat comes from low-level long-term exposures we are not aware of.

Levels Of Volatile Organic Compounds

Monitoring for VOCs in heavy industries presents many challenges. The environmental conditions can be extremely harsh, temperatures range from -20 to over 50°C with humidity often in the high 90’s and even 100%.

In typhoon conditions. Coupled with this is the wide range of concentration that need to accurately be measured. Explosion and asphyxiation concentrations are in the order of 10,000 ppm, acute health risks 10s – 100s of ppm, chronic health risks 1 – 0.1 ppm and environmental emissions ppb and lower.

Pellistors are the most common sensor type for detecting gasses and vapours over 5,000 ppm. To detect gasses and vapours below this photo-ionisation detection is the preferred sensing technology.

Volatile Organic Compound Detection

In conclusion, there are significant financial, environmental and health benefits associated with taking a proactive approach to monitoring VOCs in the heavy industrial environment. The resulting gains in operational efficiency and worker wellbeing are vital in creating a sustainable business and achieving operational excellence. The photoionisation detector (PID) has proven to be an ideal solution for personal worker protection but effective in, fugitive emission and fence-line monitoring applications.

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“VOC Issues In Heavy Industries”

The VOC issues in heavy industries guide which can be downloaded below provides the reader with an in-depth balance of knowledge covering three key areas within heavier industries. We cover basics health & safety, environmental & economic conditions while discussing why photoionisation detector (PID) has proven to be an ideal solution for personal worker protection but effective in, fugitive emission and fenceline monitoring applications.


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