Volatile Organic compounds are chemicals that both vaporize into air and dissolve in water, having a high vapor pressure and low water solubility. Many VOCs are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. VOCs typically are industrial solvents, such as trichloroethyene, fuel oxygenates, such as methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE); or by-products produced by chlorination in water treatment, such as chloroform. VOCs are often components of petroleum fuels, hydraulic fluids, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning agents.
VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (u to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.
Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.
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Household products including:
Paints, paint strippers, varnishes, stains, and other solvents
Cleansers and disinfectants
Moth repellents and air fresheners
Stored fuels, leaking fuel tanks, and automotive products including motor oil
Other products including:
Building materials and furnishings
Office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
Graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.
By itself, the reverse osmosis process cannot take out VOCs. The VOCs will pass through the membrane just like oxygen does. Reverse osmosis systems will only take out VOCs, if they have a carbon pre-filter or post-filter. Contact the manufacturer for specific capacities of your system. Keep in mind that filtration systems require regular maintenance/preventative maintenance in order to work properly.
It is difficult to generalize the dangers of waterborne VOCs because there are so many different variations of them. Furthermore, there has not been extensive testing done to determine the health risks posed by many of the household products that release VOCs. But, there is evidence exposure to VOCs has negative side effects. According to the EPA, volatile organic compounds are associated with irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea. Prolonged exposure can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Whether or not they are carcinogenic is still contested. Some organics have manifested as cancerous in animals, and there are some that are suspected to cause cancer in human beings.
Residents are advised to "flush" their water following the lifting of the boil water advisory, to clear plumbing of potentially contaminated water. Please follow these guidelines:
Clean aerators: (aerators are the screens at the end of the faucets, they reduce the amount of water that comes out of the faucet and control the flow.
Flush cold water faucets: 5 minutes with cold water.
Flush hot water faucets: To clear hot-water pipes and water heater, flush the hot water line for a minimum of 15 minutes for a typical household 40-gallon hot-water tank, 30 minutes for an 80-gallon hot water tank or larger.
Water Heaters: run hot water from all faucets until water runs cold. Second option is to drain the water heater using spigot/release on the bottom of heater.
Flush showers: 5 minutes of a mix of hot and cold water
Toilets: flush and clean each toilet.
Dish Washers: If your machine has a sanitize cycle, run 1 cycle
Outdoor Spigots: 5 minutes, disconnect hose first.
Refrigerator Water Dispenser: flush for 5 minutes or at least 1 quart of water.
Faucet/Fridge Water Filters: consider replacing filter per manufacturer recommendation.
In-Line Water Filter: consider replacing filter per manufacturer recommendation.
Ice Makers: Discard about three batches of ice from the ice maker and sanitize the ice bin.
Water Softeners: cycle water softener per manufacturer recommendation.
Humidifiers: Discard any water used in humidifiers, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), oral, medical, or health care devices, and rinse the device with clean water.
It is safe to wash clothes as usual.
Each boil water advisory is different, making it impossible to predict how long the boil water advisory will remain in effect. The minimum duration of a boil water advisory is 48 hours. It will not be lifted until testing shows that the water meets public health standards. Boil water advisories are lifted when the water is considered safe and no longer poses a threat to public health.
For elevations below 6,500 ft. one minute is sufficient. Elevations above 6,500 ft. it is recommended that you boil water for three minutes. This is because as altitude increases and atmospheric pressure decreases, the boiling point of water decreases. To compensate for the lower boiling point of water at higher elevations, the boiling time must be increased.
You can use tap water for household plants and gardens. If growing herbs or edible plants, be sure to rinse with boiled or bottled water before eating.
During a boil water advisory, wash fruits and vegetables with boiled or bottled water. Use boiled or bottled water for infant formula, Use boiled or bottled water to make beverages such as coffee, tea, or juice.
Give pets bottled or boiled water that has been cooled. Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator.
If possible, use disposable plates, cups, and utensils during a boil water advisory. Household dishwashers generally are safe to use if the water reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 160 degrees F. or the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle. Sanitize all baby bottles.
To wash dishes by hand:
1. Wash and rinse the dishes as you normally would using hot water.
2. In a separate basin, add 1 teaspoon of unscented household liquid bleach for each gallon of warm water.
3. Soak the rinsed dishes in the water for at least one minute.
4. Let the dishes air dry completely before using them.
Adults may continue to shower, exercising caution to ensure no water is swallowed. Use caution when bathing babies and young children. Consider giving them a sponge bath to reduce the chance of them swallowing water. Open cuts or wounds should be covered to ensure no exposure to water.
The Department of Environmental Management is responsible for wastewater reuse/reclamation (recycled water) for the County of Maui. For more information, you may call the Wastewater Reclamation Division at (808) 270-7417 and request to talk to the Recycled Water Coordinator.