Level of volatile organic compounds and their risks to human health in Kuwait
Kuwait is subject to fast urbanization and industrialization. This development has increased traffic and other anthropogenic activities resulting in air pollution. Such activities are linked to increasing levels of emitted VOCs. Exposure to VOCs may result in both acute and chronic health effects. VOCs are a major factor in the production of low level ozone which itself has serious effects on health. Air pollution monitoring stations established by Kuwait EPA measure total hydrocarbon vapours, not individual compounds. The practical part of this study was done to assess the levels of identified VOCs in different areas in Kuwait, to identify the health risks associated with observed levels and to manage human health risks associated with VOC emissions. Air sampling was by grab sampling, taking 130 ambient air samples from areas representing residential, commercial and industrial areas. Gas samples were analyzed within 24 hours using EPA method TO15. The results showed mean concentration of TVOCs less than 399 mg/m3 in 78% of the studied sites, however, the remainder were much higher than a mean concentration ten times this in the city centre. Published data established that the measured concentrations of VOCs had known health effects on general populations. Attention was therefore focused upon the sources and points of release of named VOCs enabling practical and pragmatic action. Links were identified between affluence and the species and quantity of VOCs. Vehicles dominate affluent areas and workshop emissions dominate poorer areas. The petroleum industry was less important than expected as a source of VOCs, but work is required on emissions which drift seawards. Recommendations include developing an air emission inventory, an environmental reporting system, and a risk management plan as well as a series of local studies to identify sources and take local action.