What are VOCs and Why Should I Care?
VOCs or “Volatile organic compounds, sometimes referred to as VOCs, are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases. Along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen.” – Tox Town, US Library of Medicine
VOCs can often be smelled and is our first warning sign. When my husband and talk a walk at night we often smell all the homes doing the laundry and my husband will say “Ah, smell the VOCs”. Keep in mind that not all VOCs give of an odor however.
Not all VOCs are hazardous, but many are. The VOCs we should worry the most about are the ones in our homes. Our home is the most toxic place we go each day unless we are mindful to change that. One of the ways toxins enter our homes is through VOCs; in fact the levels of VOCS can be 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outside. Here are ways we bring hazardous VOCs into our homes:
Paint Strippers and Paints
Fingernail polish, colognes, hairspray, Fingernail polish remover
Dry cleaned clothes
What Chemicals Do I look for? There are too many to list in our daily life, and remember not all are toxic. Here are are few common ones:
Why should I care?
Many VOCs have either negative health impacts or exacerbate existing conditions such as:
Eye, nose and throat irritation
Exacerbation of asthma symptoms
Nausea and/or Vomiting
Damage to kidneys
Damage to liver
Damage to Nervous System
Loss of Coordination
Chemicals known to be of special concern and linked to cancers or are “reasonably expected to be human carcinogens”:
What do I do about it?
Switch to truly Green products in your home, I say truly because not all products listed as Green are as Green as they suggest
Open windows when using products such as paint, glues, caulks, etc. Items with strong odors
Open windows periodically as a habit to keep the home less enclosed therefore less toxic
Look for items listed as having either low VOCS or even better No VOCs
Purchase solid wood items with low VOC finishes
Consider choices other than carpet and wallpaper
It is nearly impossible to completely eliminate hazardous VOCs, but we can greatly reduce them through mindful purchases and choices.
Two handy online guides are the US Deparment of Health and Human Services Household Database and EWG.org. Keep an open mind when viewing EWG or any other private organizations database. while they can have much wonderful data, there assessments are based on their own guidelines and often look at the chemicals in isolation which function very differently and at varying concentration levels than when used in formulations.
As you search for safe, green, and effective products I’d like to help you learn about Shaklee and the commitment to your health and the environment. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.