Abstract A study conducted in Cork, Ireland, characterised the atmospheric abundance, fate and human exposure of selected volatile organic compounds (VOC) emitted from chemical plant exhaust gases. The total mass loadings of VOC in kg/hr of these emissions were determined for each company. The individual solvents were identified using gas chromatography coupled to photoionisation and mass selective detectors. Air dispersion modelling was used to predict the impact of these emissions on a residential area. Ambient air adjacent to the chemical companies was examined for alkanes, alcohols, ketones, organic acids, aromatic hydrocarbons and chloroethylenes, selected on the basis of emission inventories. While the study showed there was evidence of VOC in the ambient environment, the impact on overall air quality was not significant to pose a threat to public health.