Indoor Air Quality with Respect to Diesel Fume and Volatile Organic Compounds

Shawcity Ltd. is a specialist provider of monitoring instrumentation for Health & Safety, Occupational Hygiene and Environmental monitoring across a wide range of industries. We offer instruments for gas detection, air quality, dust, sound, noise, vibration and heat stress. Within this remit it has become increasingly apparent to that indoor air quality is becoming a pressing issue for many industries. Of specific interest are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).


tiger updateVOCs are often associated with Sick Building Syndrome. Within the indoor environment they constitute the principal class of contaminants that can be found, consisting of a complex mixture of between 50 and 300 different types of compounds.

The sources of most VOCs are from products used in construction, finishing and cleaning products, for example paints, adhesives, sealants, flooring, processed woods and surface finishings. Further sources include furniture, office electronics, personal care/hygiene products and other such materials brought into a building by its occupants. It is also possible for VOC contaminants to be drawn in from the outdoor environment, especially near roads or industrial activities.

The specific components of interest are recognised as particulates, inorganic gases and organic vapours. Particulates are recognised as containing polyaromatic hydrocarbons, metaliferous abrasion particles, sulfates and silicates; inorganic gases include oxides of nitrogen, sulphur and carbon; and an expansive list of organic compounds which include the highly toxic compounds benzene, butadiene and formaldehyde.

Health Effects

The health effects of many volatile organics are still not fully understood, but in general it is known that the quantity, toxicity and length of time of exposure result in different health effects. These effects are often associated with symptoms of irritation to eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders and memory impairment in the immediacy. Nevertheless, little is known of the health effects found in public/commercial buildings when mixtures of VOCs are present, but continuing research by private organisations and public bodies is helping to understand the risks posed.  

Indoor Environments

high res cub cropIndoor environment studies have shown that the ambient total VOC concentrations ranges from 0.2 to 5 milligrams per cubic metre of air (mg/m3) with a number reporting some environments reaching up to 25mg/m3. European Community target guideline values of between 0.2 – 0.3mg/m3 have been discussed and within the UK, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) has set out guideline values for VOCs, semi VOCs and aldehydes. 

Further to this BREEAM sets limits on gases, including CO, CO2, NO, NO2, SO2 as well as particles (mass concentration and size distribution). These are taken post-construction but pre –occupancy so that air quality can be confirmed before a building is put into use.

Diesel Fume Cancer Risk

Furthermore, with the recent classification of diesel fume as a major cancer risk (International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organisation) in 2012, diesel fume within enclosed spaces and indoor environments has come into sharp focus. This has been reinforced by the Health and Safety Executive releasing guidance note INDG 286 “Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions” in the same year. This now requires any employer under the COSHH regulations to make a “suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks” and “prevent or adequately control the exposure”. 

Monitoring Technology

dust traxAs the UK’s leading supplier of monitoring instrumentation, Shawcity has been working alongside a wide range of customers to provide both the expertise and equipment to monitor VOCs, toxic gases and dusts. To enable us to provide the widest range of monitoring solutions we offer the best available technology from market leaders such as TSI, Sensidyne, Ion Science and Rae Systems. 

Shawcity LTD. hire and sell the UK's largest range of VOC monitors.

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