Many labels on household cleaning products or other common home products now proudly state that they’re “VOC-free.” But what exactly are VOCs, and are they dangerous? As it turns out, VOCs may be causing more harm in your home than you realize. These dangerous chemicals are everywhere, but studies show VOC emissions are on the decline.
What Are VOCs?
VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. While this may seem harmless, many of these potentially toxic chemicals are found in everyday household items. VOC exposure in an indoor environment can cause everything from eye, nose, and throat irritation to memory loss.
They also contribute significantly to environmental damage, especially in urban areas. VOC pollution has been connected to ozone development and acid rain. VOCs released into the atmosphere can damage the air quality surrounding plants, leading to disease and delayed or damaged growth. When too many VOCs are released into the atmosphere, they can impact the pH balance of water in an area, leading to harmful acid rain.
What Products Contain VOCs?
Even if you shop organic, there may be more VOC-releasing items in your home than you realize. Everything from common cleaning agents to paint can release VOCs into an indoor environment and cause harm. Some of the most common household items that frequently contain VOCs are:
- Paints and paint strippers
- Wood preservatives
- Aerosol sprays
- Disinfectants and air fresheners
- Fuels and automotive products
- Dry-cleaned clothing
VOCs aren’t only found indoors, however. There are many commonly used products that release VOCs into the atmosphere outdoors, causing even more directly harmful effects on the environment. The following are frequently responsible for outdoor VOC emissions:
- Diesel emissions
- Wood burning
How Can I Avoid VOCs?
While it may seem like VOCs are everywhere and unavoidable, there are steps you can take to reduce their presence in your home and life. Be mindful of which cleaning products you buy, and always check the label to see if they contain VOCs. Most organic products will be more careful about their chemicals, but it’s still a good idea to check. If you’re planning on painting your home or doing major home projects, make sure your paint and materials are VOC-free before you start working. If you have a short commute or regularly drive the kids to and from school, consider walking or taking public transportation instead. Carpools can also be a great way to cut down on your emissions.
Current steps seem to be working well to reduce the total amount of VOCs in the atmosphere. In 1970, there were 34.7 million tons of volatile organic compounds emissions. In 2017, there were 16.2 million tons. Keep spreading the word about VOCs to help drive this number even lower in the future.
When it’s not possible to avoid VOCs, they can be removed from your air with an industrial and military strength air purifier by EnvoroKlenz.