The environment is a complex system of interacting environmental media. Pollutants do not stay in the medium where they originate but move across environmental phase boundaries. The distribution of pollutants throughout the various environmental compartments (for example, air, water, soil, and biota) is the result of complex physical, chemical, and biological processes. The resulting environmental and human health risks depend upon the degree of exposure of human and ecological receptors, via multiple pathways, to these chemicals. Thus, environmental pollution is a multimedia problem. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in particular, are very mobile in the environment. For example, VOCs which are initially present in the soil or water media can readily volatilize to the atmosphere where they can be transported over significant distances from the source location. In this paper an overview is presented of VOC sources, VOC ambient levels, the multimedia distribution of VOCs in the environment, and multipathway exposure to VOCs.
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