Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

What is an organic solvent?

What is an organic solvent?

An organic solvent is a type of volatile organic compound (VOC). VOCs are organic chemicals which vaporise at room temperature.

Organic compounds used as solvents include:

  • aromatic compounds, eg benzene and toluene
  • alcohols, eg methanol
  • esters and ethers
  • ketones, eg acetone
  • amines
  • nitrated and halogenated hydrocarbons.

Organic solvents are often used:

  • to dissolve substances
  • to disperse coatings
  • as media for chemical reactions
  • as cleaning agents.

They are also often used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products, footwear, paints, varnishes and adhesives.

Organic solvents react in the atmosphere in sunlight, producing an air pollutant known as 'ground-level ozone'. High concentrations of ground-level ozone seriously affect human, animal and plant health. They also harm building materials, forests and crops.

Many organic solvents are classified as toxic or carcinogenic. They can cause significant air and water pollution, and land contamination.


In this guideline

What is an organic solvent?

Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permits for solvent emissions

Why you should monitor your solvent use and emissions

How to monitor your solvent use and emissions

Solvent monitoring plan and solvent emissions data

Managing your solvents efficiently

Reducing solvent use in production and cleaning processes

Recovering and reusing solvents

Storing and using solvents

Solvent limits in paints and varnishes

Solvent limits in vehicle refinishing products

Solvent emissions environmental legislation

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