What are VOCs?
Posted on 1/10/13 12:22 AM
Some of the most common nasties found in and around the home are VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Don’t be fooled by the word ‘organic’ – these gases, released from many common household products, have the potential to be harmful. Remember having a headache when you painted the lounge or cleaned the bathroom? VOCs can also be found in goods ranging from pesticides to varnishes and are even in some marker pens, cosmetics and glues for craft projects. Studies show that when some VOCs combine with sunlight they form ozone. Together VOCs and ozone can cause headaches, coughs and eye irritations. They can also exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms. It’s thought that long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to kidney, liver and central nervous system damage as well as cancer.
Young children are particularly vulnerable. They breathe more air than adults and because they spend more time on the floor they come in contact with more chemicals. And what happens to little hands and fingers? They inevitably head into mouths and eyes. You can’t change your baby or toddler’s behaviour, but you can alter what’s in his or her environment. So where possible, use low–VOC products or avoid them altogether. If a product has a strong smell, chances are it is releasing VOCs. And if you have to use products with VOCs, do so quickly, follow the instructions and ventilate your house well. On average, levels of VOCs inside are two to five times higher than the outdoors and if you are painting, it can shoot up to 1000 times higher. So be very cautious with these nasties – a little bit of care can do lot of good when it comes to reducing risks for you and your family.