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The ABC’s of Indoor Air Quality – VOCs

VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are gases emitted by solids or liquids inside the home. The sources of VOCs in the home are numerous and include:

  • Household cleaning products
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Wood preservatives
  • Wax that contain organic solvents
  • Disinfectants
  • Cosmetics
  • Hobby products

All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and to a lesser degree when they are stored.The possible health effects of exposure to VOCs include:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination and nausea
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Some VOCs are also suspected carcinogens

The extent of the health effects depend on many factors such as the level and length of exposure. According to the EPA, concentrations of VOCs (https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality) indoors are up to 10 times higher than outdoors.

So what can you do to limit your family’s exposure to potentially harmful VOCs? The EPA recommends taking the following steps:

  • Use good ventilation when using products that emit VOCs
  • Read and follow product instructions and warnings carefully
  • Store opened containers of unused products in a safe location and ensure they are tightly sealed and not leaking.
  • If a product is leaking, discard of the container as directed. Do not transfer the contents to another container.
  • Plywood furniture and flooring should be sealed to reduce potential exposure to formaldehyde.
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