We all know what VOCs are. Those bad fumes you smell from paint, right? Well, yes. But did you know there are a number of other items in your home that may be off-gassing into your environment?
What is a VOC? VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. A VOC is an organic compound that has a high vapour pressure at room temperature. The types of VOCs are varied, and can be man made or naturally occurring compounds and contain chemicals that may have both short and long term health effects.
VOCs can be found in a variety of surprising household items.
Particle Board: Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and causes nose and throat irritation. In addition to being found in cosmetics, formaldehyde can be found in a number of construction materials, including the glue that holds partial board and press board together. The best way to avoid formaldehyde in furniture is to buy second hand so that the item has had time to off-gas before it hits your home. Alternately, buy solid wood furniture.
Dryer Sheets: Made for the purpose of adding scent to your clothes dryer sheets contain a number of chemicals, including chloroform and pentanes, that may cause both eye an skin irritation. A better solution, skip the dryer sheets and consider line drying your clothes for a natural fresh smell.
Air Fresheners: Not so fresh. Most air fresheners emit phthalates, a hormone disrupting chemical that can be particularly dangerous for young children and babies.
Nail Polish Remover: Nail polish remover is pure acetone. Inhaling acetone, even for short periods of time, can cause nose, throat and lung irritation, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.
Electronics: Many electronics contain triphenyl phosphate as a fire retardant. While it is important to ensure fire safety for electronic devices, you should be aware that when the device heats up, VOCs are emitted.
Household Cleaners. That’s a no-brainer. Conventional cleaners contain a myriad of chemicals, with varying degrees of health concerns. Whenever possible, we recommend the use of natural products, such as vinegar and water, for cleaning.
While it may not be possible for you to completely avoid VOCs, whenever possible, avoid purchasing products that emit VOCs. If you do have VOCs emitted into your environment, please keep the doors and windows open to allow for fresh air, and turn on any exterior-venting fans.