Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in drinking water include a group of organic compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low solubility in water, i.e., chemicals that would prefer to volatilize into the atmosphere then to stay dissolved in the water.
Since most VOCs in drinking water consist of man-made compounds, it is uncommon to find VOCs in natural water, but some volatile organic compounds, like acetone, can be found in nature. VOCs are used in manufacturing, industrial, and petrochemicals processes; they can also be found in many chemicals used in your home.
The primary concern with VOCs is that at relatively low concentrations some VOCs can be carcinogenic, can cause damage to the circulatory system and nervous system and other major organs, and may create a slight odor. For the most part, the volatile organic compounds are regulated under a Primary Drinking Water Standard because they pose a health risk at levels and concentrations that are lower than the concentration that may create an aesthetic problem. This means these are VOCs that could pose a health risk at concentrations in water for which there would be no aesthetic issue or problem that you could detect that would cause you to suspect you have a problem. There could be an air pollution problem, especially in confined spaces, should water with a high concentration of a VOC enter a home and be encouraged to leave the water by washing machines and showers. These are some reasons we think it is critical to not only get your water tested, but to use the Neighborhood Environmental Report to determine the historic hazards of VOCs in your community.