Everything You Need To Know About VOCs

Ahh, VOCs. We’ve been throwing this acronym around lately and you’ve may have run into it before. So what exactly are VOCs? VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds and, despite having the word “organic” in its name, these compounds are pretty bad for you. See, VOCs contain a variety of chemicals and are emitted as a gas from many solids and liquids. Gosh, that sentence sounded like it was pulled right from your middle school science class, didn’t it? We’ll rephrase this: Take a look around you and note just how much of your stuff is manufactured. Most stuff, right? Everything from the chair you’re sitting on to the paper in your printer to the cleaning solution you use in the breakroom contain VOCs (things like benzene, methylene, acetone, just to name a few). Over time, these toxins are released from their solid or liquid form as a gas, which is then easily dispersed in the air. The air you breathe. This is why indoor air is 10 times more polluted than outdoor air.

Yes, many things you own probably are emitting VOCs. No, we’re not trying to scare you, this is just a fact of our 21st century life. But it’s a fact you should know so you do something about it. Here’s a short list of the common items that contain VOCs (the actual list is very large, believe us).

  • Paint
  • Paint strippers
  • Solvents
  • Wax
  • Cosmetic products
  • Wood preservative
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Cleaning products
  • Moth repellents
  • Air fresheners
  • Stored fuel
  • Automotive products
  • Hobby supplies
  • Dry-cleaned clothing
  • Pesticides
  • Furnishings
  • Office Equipment
  • Printers
  • White-out
  • Markers
  • Carbonless copy paper
  • Glues
  • Photographic solutions
  • Building materials

So now that you know the source of VOCs, the next step is learning about the health effects and symptoms of living in an environment that has too many VOCs. The common side effects of VOCs are throat, eye and nose irritations, headaches, nausea, loss of coordination, allergic skin reactions and fatigue. The more serious effects are central nervous, kidney and liver damage, dyspnea, emesis, epistaxis and the Scary Big C Word (cancer). Luckily, these serious illnesses are a result of being exposed to VOCs over a long period of time, but as modern buildings are getting greener (meaning they are becoming sealed off to conserve energy), it’s harder and harder for fresh air to get into buildings for us to breathe.

What to do about it.

There’s a good chance that you’re home, office or both have a high level of VOCs. We recommend installing AWAIR into these buildings to monitor toxins in the air, alert you when levels get too high and then recommend actions to take to solve the problem. Other simple tricks are to keep windows cracked open for fresh air, swap cleaning products and machines out for “green” ones, turn the stove’s overhead ventilation system on when cooking, add some air-purifying plants to your home and, in general, doing everything you can to always be breathing fresh, pure air.

VOCs are everywhere in this modern world and sadly they can cause an array of health problems. Breathing in clean air is VERY important to maintain health, but with the right actions, you can stay happy and healthy.