Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a combination of gases and odors emitted from many different toxins and chemicals found in everyday products.
VOCs can cause serious health effects in both the short and long term. Health effects vary from minor eye, nose and throat irritations all the way to liver and kidney damage or cancer, depending on the level of exposure.
Nose, throat, eye inflammation
Coughing, painful breathing
Affects the central nervous system (headache, anxiety)
Respiratory diseases (asthma, cancer)
Impacts on liver, spleen, blood
Indoor air is often up to 5x more polluted than outdoor air.
We spend 90% of our time indoors.
They come from an array of everyday items including paints and varnishes, wax and cosmetics, cleaning and hobby products, and even cooking and human breath. When you have an enclosed space like a home or office, these emitted gases accumulate and pollute our fresh air.
Anything that burns gives off fumes. Fireplaces and scented candles are especially harmful, so keep an eye on your levels while using them.
Mothballs, room deodorizers and perfumes—anything with a fragrance, contain chemicals that should be avoided.
Cooking also creates gases that can be toxic. Always use a hood fan or open a window while cooking indoors. And keep the door closed when grilling outdoors.
New furniture, carpet, drapes, mattresses all contain chemicals and sometimes formaldehyde which slowly release into the air, often for years after you bring them home.
While cleaning with soaps, detergents, furniture polish and glass cleaners, be aware of terpenes and ethanol and ventilate accordingly. Or look for low VOC products.
Glue, paints, fabrics, wax, dyes, many craft products contain VOCs. Be sure to ventilate while using them.
Some hard plastics contain formaldehyde and fabrics emit toxins and attract dust mites. Look for BPA-free plastics or avoid plastics altogether, and wash toys regularly and before use.
Lacquers, paint, industrial glues, paint thinner and harsh chemicals should be kept in a garage away from the home —even when they are locked tight they emit chemicals into the air.
Listen to your nose: when something smells, it is more than likely emitting VOCs. Even good smelling things like perfume or air fresheners have negative effects.
Buy used furniture and purchase low VOC and environmentally friendly cleaning products whenever possible. Check toxins in candles, fragrances and craft products before buying.
And of course, ventilate!