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Definition of volatile organic compounds (VOC):
There is no clear and widely supported definition of a VOC. VOC is a term used more in relation to air quality and environmental studies. From a chemistry viewpoint “Volatile Organic Compound” can mean any organic compound (all chemical compounds containing carbon with exceptions) that is volatile (evaporating or vaporizing readily under normal conditions). This is a very broad set of chemicals. Definitions vary depending on the particular context. There are many other widely used terms that are a subclass of VOCs[1].
This is the common definition for volatile organic compounds (VOC), other definitions can be discussed in the article


VOCs include substances like the chlorinated hydrocarbons (CHC like: chloroform, tetrachloormethane, tetrachloorethyleen,...), monoaromatic substances (MAH like: benzene, trichlorobenzene, toluene and ethylbenzene).

Most VOCs are industrial compounds with a high annual production. So is tetrachloormethane produced at 300.000 tons a year.

Many are persistent and toxic but show a low tendency towards bioaccumulation (at least compared to PCBs). Chronic exposure to some VOCs (e.g. benzene) can cause immunodeficiency and carcinogenic effects[2].

Case studies

Volatile organic compounds in North Sea fish


  1. www.wikipedia.org July 27 2009
  2. Roose, P.; Brinkman, U.A.Th. (2005). Determination of volatile organic compounds in marine biota, in: Roose, P. (2005). Volatile organic compounds and related microcontaminants in the Scheldt estuary and the southern North Sea: method development and monitoring. pp. 85-108
The main author of this article is Daphnis De Pooter
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.