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VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)

What is a VOC?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are organic chemical compounds that can easily enter the atmosphere or water supply. They are commonly found in such familiar products as paint, gasoline, oil and cleaning fluids.

How do VOCs get into my drinking water?

VOCs can enter the soil through herbicide use, industrial runoff and oil and gasoline seepage. Once in the soil, the VOC's can be carried deeper with percolating rainwater or melting snow. If they reach the water table, they can persist for years because the cool, dark, low-bacteria environment does not promote decomposition. If the VOC's in the groundwater migrate to nearby wells, they can end up in someone's drinking water.

On Cape Cod, VOCs are a particular concern. Studies have shown that VOC-containing solvents and chemicals from jet fuel, explosives and fuel additives used at the Massachusetts Military Reservation in Bourne have been leaching into groundwater and spreading across the Cape. These pose a serious health risk if left untreated.

What are the health effects of VOCs?

Ingestion of VOCs can cause liver, kidney and central nervous system problems, as well as increasing the risk of cancer.