Sneaky VOCs: Common Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home

Tony 08/28/2019
Sneaky VOCs: Common Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home
Consumers are becoming more careful about what they put in their bodies and what causes they support through their purchases. But you might not realize that the products you rely on every day might not be as safe as you imagine. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, can be found in countless products. When these liquids or solids are used or stored, the gaseous VOC chemicals are released into the air. And when that happens, you’ll be putting your entire family’s health at risk.

You probably think of your home as your safe haven, but research shows that staying inside could be hazardous to your health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors, with studies revealing VOC levels of two to five times higher inside than outside. That means that, despite the pollution and allergens that might exist outdoors, your family would theoretically be healthier spending more time outside than in the comfort of your own home. That’s especially true when you’ve recently used a product that contains VOCs. Certain activities, like paint stripping, can raise VOC levels to up to 1,000 that of background outdoor levels both during and for several hours after the activity has been completed.

It’s extremely difficult to protect yourself against these VOCs once they’re released. What’s more, the health consequences can be quite staggering. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that individuals can be exposed to VOCs through inhalation or through skin contact. While short-term exposure can cause headaches, dizziness, eye irritation, and memory issues, long-term VOC exposure can also cause nausea, fatigue, and loss of coordination, as well as cancer and damage to the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. In other words, you’ll want to do everything possible to minimize your risk of exposure.

The best way to do that? Keep products with VOCs out of your home altogether. By utilizing non-VOC alternatives, you can drastically decrease your chances of exposure without sacrificing on product quality. Plus, you’ll also help the environment by cutting down on harmful VOC emissions.

It’s important to educate yourself on the products that are most likely to emit these chemicals. Paint is one of the most common sources of VOCs. Since most homes need to be painted every seven to 10 years, that equates to a lot of potential VOC exposure for your family. When choosing a paint for the interior or the exterior of your home, make certain that it’s a non-VOC product. Other common sources of VOCs include cleaning agents and disinfectants, air fresheners, beauty products, pesticides, adhesives, cigarettes, wood preservatives, building materials (including carpet and vinyl flooring), copiers and printers, upholstery, fuel, and much more. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the names of common VOCs and swap out any products that don’t meet your standards.

The scary truth is that you may not always recognize the dangers lurking in your own home. Now that you know the common culprits of VOC exposure, you can take steps to make your family a lot healthier in the long run.