What are VOC's? Video Transcript

Hey everyone, Tony the Filter Doctor here. Welcome to our frequently asked questions series. The question that I’ll be answering today is, “What are VOC’s?” Now, for starters, VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. There are literally thousands of these in the environment; some are naturally occurring, while many are man-made. Now, specifically VOC’s are carbon containing compounds that typically have an extremely low boiling point. This allows them to evaporate very rapidly into the air and it explains why you can smell gasoline when it’s nearby. Because the VOC’s in the gas are rapidly escaping into the air and giving you that unique odor. The same is true when you apply paint to your walls. The formaldehyde rapidly escapes from the paint, along with a number of other VOC’s and you can smell it. Now, basically speaking, there are two broad categories of VOC’s. The first is chlorinated solvents and the second is fuel components. Now, concerning chlorinated solvents, if I began to list everywhere in your home that you would find chlorinated solvents, this video would be three hours long, and I’m not exaggerating, they are everywhere in your home. So I’m not going to tell you where they are because it would be much easier for me to tell you the places that they’re not found. That would be a much much shorter list. Now, fuel components, that’s easy because those are found in fuel oils and fuels. The most commonly known one is MTBE or methyl tertiary butyl ether. It’s an oxygenating compound that helps the gas burn better in your car. For the purposes of this video, you’re probably wondering, “How did these VOC’s get in my drinking water?” Well, there are any of dozens of ways that they got into the ground, but basically that’s the starting point. Some how, some way those VOC’s got into the ground and then leached down into the groundwater, and that groundwater ended up either at your municipal water treatment plant or at your well. Now, for those of you on municipal water, the EPA is currently, as of the recording of this video in August of 2012, the EPA is currently only regulating eight VOC’s of the thousands that are in your water potentially, they’re only looking at eight of them. So your municipal water treatment plant, they’re only regulating and making sure that eight specific VOC’s are below a certain level. The rest of them, it’s up to you. For those of you on well water, you have to be your own municipality. You need to find out what’s in your water and treat it appropriately or you suffer the consequences. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Now, the VOC’s are really easy to care for, and there are two basic ways. One is very economical and the most commonly used method and the other is for more extreme circumstances. Let’s start with the economical and common method, and that is, using activated carbon. Either granular activated carbon or a carbon block at the point of entry, using it as a whole house filter, so that you remove those VOC’s from the whole home and not just from the drinking water. You see, you’re not just going to get those VOC’s from ingesting water, they’re also going to evaporate out of the water all over your home and you will inhale those VOC’s. So dealing with it at the point of entry is the best and most comprehensive way to do it. Now, for those of you with extremely high levels, or maybe you have a combination issue; maybe you have VOC’s and a hydrogen sulfide problem, a rotten egg smell problem, you could use a degassing or aerating system. And this basically just sprays your water through a variety of aerator nozzles to atomize the water and that gives the VOC’s and the hydrogen sulfide an opportunity to evaporate and then the degassing system vents those gases out, and you get water that doesn’t have VOC’s and hydrogen sulfide in it. The drawback to these systems is that they are very expensive and they require a great deal of maintenance, but in some cases it will be necessary. But the best and most economical way and the most common way is to use an activated carbon filter at the point of entry. That’s how you deal with a broad spectrum of VOC’s. Again, this is our frequently asked questions series, and I’m your host Tony the Filter Doctor. Thanks for watching.

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