What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?
You may have read the term “low VOCs” the last time you bought paint and thought it just referred to the low odor quality. While paints are less stinky than they used to be, VOCs are actually volatile organic compounds that are found in products we use every day in our home, like the cleaning products that work so well you have to open a window to use them. That strong odor is partially from VOCs being released into the air. Common VOCs are acetone (nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol), benzene (furniture polish, liquid ant traps), formaldehyde (carpet, pressed wood products), 1, 4-dichlorobenzene (air fresheners), and tetrachloroethene (dry-cleaned products, spot removers). Be alert for other culprits including indoor allergens such as mold and dust that pollute our indoor air too.
VOCs and your health
Studies show that our homes can have three to five times more pollutants than outside. You could be living in a “sick” house and not realize it because VOC’s exposure results in common symptoms you may shrug off as an occasional headache or allergy. How VOCs effects your health varies, depending on your age, overall health, and the level of exposure. According to the EPA, eye and respiratory tract irritations, dizziness, headaches, and visual and memory impairment are some of the more immediate symptoms people experience. Health effects include loss of coordination and nausea, headaches, damage to liver, kidney and nervous system, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and some organics can cause cancer in animals and suspected to cause cancer in humans.