Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are toxic gases emitted from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals with a range of short to long-term health effects.
New building technologies make concentrations of many VOCs up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors. Volatile organic compounds are emitted by a wide range of products you will find in your home. Everything from cleaners, to candles, to fabric softeners emit VOCs. Other examples would include paints, paint strippers, most cleaning supplies, pesticides, pressed wood furniture, office equipment such as copiers and printers, glues / adhesives, and markers. Let’s be very clear – volatile organic compounds are everywhere and they are in your home.
Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Organic chemicals are broadly used ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, cosmetics, and hobby products. While many of these products will release toxins only during use such as burning a paraffin candle, others will continue to leech their toxins into the environment over time. Most pressed furniture for example includes formaldehyde within the glues that hold it together. When you consider how much pressed wood is in your home in the form of furniture, you can see how the fumes would add up through off-gassing.
Off-gassing is the evaporation of volatile chemicals under normal atmospheric conditions. Said another way, the materials can work their way into the air through evaporation. This evaporation can last for a short period of time as in the case of paint drying (may be limited to days) or continue for a sustained period of years.
What to do About Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
The best thing you can do is inspect the ingredients of products you purchase. Household cleaners are one of the easiest areas to tackle in your home along with air fresheners. Bringing plants into your home is another great option. You can find many details on which plants are best here.