What are VOCs and do you need to worry?
As homemakers we’ve become more concerned about the dangers that lurk in our houses and the effects they could be having on our families. We regularly see reports in the press about health risks associated with everything from the foods we eat to the furniture we choose. And many of these concerns seem to centre around VOCs.
That’s why this week we’re looking at what VOCs are and whether we are right to be so worried about their health impacts?
Why does this matter?
VOCs have been found to be dangerous to health in both the short term and the long term.
Compounds such as acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, methylene chloride and xylene to name a few, appear in many household items. And once they’ve been brought into our homes, these chemicals emit colourless gases that effectively pollute the air we breathe. And unless ventilation is good these gases will build up over time creating a damaging chemical concoction.
Many of these VOCs have been listed as known carcinogens, irritants and toxicants that can contribute to asthma and other breathing conditions, particularly in children and the elderly. They’re also known to cause dizziness, headaches and nausea.
To add to the issue, not all VOCs released will produce a strong smell, so you may not even be aware that they are hanging around.
What can we do to reduce VOCs in our home?
Experts recommend trying to reduce the levels of VOCs in our homes to improve our health in both the short and long term.
You can do this by:
- Improving ventilation throughout your home, particularly in rooms that have recently been decorated or which house new furniture
- Seeking low VOC paints and cleaning products
- Avoiding smoking in your home
- Reducing your use of strong-smelling air fresheners, perfumes and aerosols
- Trying to avoid plastic containers or choosing BPA-free ones
- Storing open paints, adhesives and fuels in an external shed or garage
- Choosing low-VOC floor covering options rather than carpets
- Buying second hand where possible so that the initial off-gassing has already occurred. Or if this is not possible do your research and look for low VOC options.
While it would be almost impossible to reduce VOCs to zero, just a bit of awareness and a few simple steps really can make a difference to your health and the health of your family.
About our low VOC kitchens
It may be good to know that our birch plywood kitchens have recently undergone rigorous toxicity tests, to identify VOCs, and were found to have some of the lowest levels on the market.