Volatile organic compounds are emitted by a vast array of products. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that VOCs consist of gases discharged from solids or liquids that produce short- and long-term health effects.
VOCs are particularly troubling because their concentrations are consistently up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. Those who spend time inside of homes and businesses may be at risk from concentrated exposure to VOCs.
Notable items that produce VOCs include treated woods, carpeting, building materials, paints, waxes, fabrics, and varnishes. Since people are constantly breathing in air, and whatever is circulating within it, it’s important for individuals to be conscious of these common offenders.
VOCs can be dangerous because they may cause everything from minor symptoms of headaches, nausea and stuffy noses to more serious conditions like nervous system problems and kidney and liver damage. Some VOCs are known to cause cancer in humans, warns the EPA.
To reduce exposure to VOCs, homeowners are advised to take the following steps.
Read product labels carefully for warnings against VOCs. Whenever possible, select products that do not emit VOCs.
Invest in alternative products, such as all-natural cleaning solutions. Many people find that common and safe items like vinegar, citrus oils and baking soda are as effective as chemical cleaners without the same harmful side effects.
Use an air purifier in conjunction with HVAC systems. Purchase an air purifier that specifically filters out odors and VOCs, which can help people with chemical sensitivities.
Rely on natural ventilation when using products that have strong odors or are suspected of emitting VOCs. This can be as easy as opening windows and doors or doing work outside.
Use a shed rather than an attached garage to store gas cans, pesticides, paint thinners, and other odoriferous materials away from the home. Contact the municipal waste department to learn how to properly dispose of leftover chemical products.
Rethink flooring materials to include carpeting that is low VOC or alternatives such as washable rugs or hard flooring.
Don’t forget to fill a home with plenty of live plants. A study from researchers at NASA found that certain indoor plants are effective at naturally purifying air.
Exercise caution with dry-cleaned clothes. Perchloroethylene is a chemical most widely used in dry cleaning. Air out dry-cleaned clothes before wearing them, particularly if they have strong chemical odors.
Volatile organic compounds can be excreted through various items. Individuals who educate themselves can greatly reduce their exposure to these harmful compounds.