Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) are carbon-containing compounds that evaporate easily from water into air at normal air temperatures, which is why the distinctive odor of gasoline and many solvents can easily be detected. VOCs are contained in a wide variety of commercial, industrial and residential products including fuel oils, gasoline, solvents, cleaners and degreasers, paints, inks, dyes, refrigerants and pesticides. People are most commonly exposed to VOCs through the air, in food, through skin contact, and potentially in drinking water supplies. When VOCs are spilled or improperly disposed of, a portion will evaporate, but some will soak into the ground eventually reaching water supplies.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that Volatile Organic Chemicals are present in one-fifth of the nation’s water supplies. Testing is recommended at least once for your home and further testing may be recommended based on prior use of the property. High levels of VOCs may be harmful to the central nervous system, the kidneys or the liver, cause skin irritation, and some VOCs are known or suspected carcinogens.
When VOCs are detected, steps may be taken to prevent further contamination by treating or removing the source. However, removal of the source is not always possible. Water treatment systems are available which can remove or reduce VOCs. Filtration systems may be installed for point-of-use treatment at the faucet or point-of-entry treatment where water enters the home. Point-of-entry systems are preferred for VOCs because they provide safe water for bathing and laundry, as well as for cooking and drinking. It is important to determine exactly which contaminants are present in the water before choosing a system.
Pesticides in Well Water
In some areas, chemicals such as pesticides in the water supply can be a concern. A water test is the only way to detect a chemical and determine if it is below the acceptable level as set by the EPA for public drinking water systems. Proper storage, use, and disposal of chemicals as well as proper well location and construction are the keys to avoiding groundwater contamination. If your home is in an area susceptible to contamination or there is a history of pesticide use, testing is recommended. Additionally, if the Basic Profile water test results have high nitrate concentration a pesticide test is recommended.