What Are VOCs? Volatile Organic Compounds are chemical compounds that evaporate at room temperature under normal, indoor atmospheric conditions. The most common are formaldehyde and benzene, often found in interior paints which are laden with these chemicals. When you smell fresh paint, you are actually being exposed to VOC gasses as they evaporate into the air.
Left over from the manufacturing process of many common household items, VOCs can also be found in new furniture, carpet, mattresses, window dressings and even toys.
VOCs evaporate under normal conditions so these nasty chemicals dissipate over time but, in the process, create fumes that compromise indoor air quality and may even make you and your family sick.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, fumes from VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat; trigger headaches, dizziness and nausea; they can even damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
Doctors warn that exposure to these chemical gasses can cause severe allergic reactions in children and adults with allergies, ranging from skin irritation to respiratory problems. VOCs are identified as a significant risk factor for people suffering from asthma. This chemical “off gassing” has even been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), although the connection has not been proven.
Is It Possible To Avoid Exposure to VOCs?
- Where possible, choose organic products for your home. Because they are produced without the aid of chemicals, organic products tend to have no chemical residue and not normally produce dangerous fumes.
- Make sure there is adequate ventilation when using paint and chemical-based products.
- Use non-toxic, low odour paint. Often referred to as “VOC free” or “low-VOC, these are eco friendly to traditional interior paints.
- Wash or wipe down new toys, furniture and accessories, allowing plenty of time for these items to air in a well-ventilated space before introducing them to your children.