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Exposure to VOCs can trigger respiratory conditions

Exposure to VOCs and their ill-effects, cannot be studied in isolation, says Dr Faisal Asad

| | Sep 17, 2018 | 9:47 am
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Dubai, UAE, 17 September 2018: “Today, end-users pay more attention to whether air is being cooled sufficiently, instead of focusing on factors that influence IEQ, for instance, the exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and their effects on respiratory health,” said Suneil Deliwal, Managing Director, Cheqpoint Trading. He added that unlike well-known hotels, which maintain their HVAC systems and are attentive to VOCs, and their harmful effects, residential and office buildings hardly bother.

Dr Faisal Asad

Echoing Deliwal is Dr Faisal Asad, Head of Department, Pulmonology, Saudi German Hospital. He said, “Today, people are exposed to VOCs in the most mundane places. For instance, the kind of smell a person experiences when he or she buys a new carpet or a car and during renovation or building maintenance, in the form of paints and foams.” In the United Arab Emirates, in particular, he said, people are more vulnerable to VOCs because they spend most of their time indoors, making IEQ very important to maintaining good respiratory health. He explained, “The exposure to VOCs and their ill-effects as a subject cannot be studied in isolation, as the chemicals are only a trigger, which lead to more complex respiratory conditions.” To name a few, he said, mucous membrane irritation, cough in the chest, inflammation in the nose, oral cavities and in the ear-ways, wheezing and asthma-like symptoms, can all be triggered when a person is exposed to VOCs. “However, the time taken by the body to react to the chemicals is subjective and differs from person to person, as it depends on the person’s tolerance level to the chemicals and his or her hypersensitivity,” said Dr Asad.

Elaborating on a study conducted in Korea, where both asthmatic and non-asthmatic people were exposed to VOCs, he said, “Those who had asthma showed higher bronchial hyperresponsiveness as compared to those who did not have asthma.” The non-asthmatic persons, he said, also experienced asthmatic symptoms, but this was relative from person to person. “VOCs are especially harmful to children, as 90% of asthmatic cases can be diagnosed during childhood. This, in addition to pregnant women whose immunity can be affected,” said Dr Asad. Even though anti-inflammatory medicine is available, the best treatment, he said, is to avoid contact with the chemicals. He concluded, “The exposure to VOCs is an occupational hazard and, though there are rules and regulations, personal protection is a must.”

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