What are VOCs and Why Should You Avoid Them?

According to the EPA, our indoor air is often up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Outdoor air obviously receives far more pollution from gasoline and diesel emissions alone. So how is our indoor air 5 times more polluted?

Unfortunately, majority of conventional store-bought products contain toxins and chemicals that release harmful emissions upon use. In the outdoors, these emissions are able to freely disperse. However, once they are released into our homes, these emissions remain trapped, continuing to build up as the product is used.

What are VOCs?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a combination of gases and odors released from the toxins and chemicals found in our everyday products. “Volatile” means a substance can easily evaporate at normal temperatures. Some of the more common VOCs are benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, methylene, ethylene, xylene, and more. VOCs can be pungent or completely odorless; some are known carcinogens while others have unknown health effects.

VOCs can be released from common household products, such as: paints, paint strippers, varnishes, adhesives, caulk, flooring, carpet, furniture, air fresheners, cleaners, and disinfectants. The same type of harmful emissions released from gasoline or tobacco smoke are finding their way into our homes—particularly through conventional cleaners.

Most people think when they are regularly cleaning their home, they are making it a safer place for their family. It seems counterintuitive for cleaning products to be harmful for our health. However, the high levels of VOCs found in all-purpose cleaners, aerosol sprays, laundry detergents, oven cleaners, dish soap, toilet cleaners, and more are doing just that. When we spray our kitchen countertops and breathe in the vapors, we also readily absorb VOCs into our body.

VOCs are present both indoors and outdoors. However, VOCs like formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, are actually much higher indoors. Because formaldehyde is “volatile,” which means it evaporates easily, it releases into indoor air from many different products, such as laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dish soap.

Why are VOCs dangerous?

The health risks that VOCs pose from inhalation depends on how much, how often, and how long a person is exposed to the chemical. When conventional chemical cleaning products are continually used in an enclosed space, it begins to make sense why our indoor air is 5 times more polluted.

VOCs can cause both short-term and long-term health effects. Short-term effects from VOCs include: headaches, dizziness, fatigue, coughing, painful breathing, nose, throat, and eye irritation, pneumonia, bronchitis, and skin irritation. Serious long-term effects from VOCs include: damaged central nervous system, anxiety, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, asthma, cancer, liver and spleen damage, and a disrupted reproductive system. Most studies on the health effects of VOCs have been done on single chemicals, and not much is known on what happens when a person is routinely exposed to a combination.

How can I improve my indoor air quality?

With Americans spending approximately 90% of their time indoors, it is more important now than ever to improve our indoor air quality. To protect your health, it is essential to avoid products with high levels of VOCs and to increase regular ventilation in your home. First, reduce or remove the number of products that give off VOCs in your home. The easiest products to start with are your household cleaning products. In our health conscious world, it is now much easier to seek out safe and effective cleaning products like Fawn Organics Laundry Detergent, Fawn Organics All-Purpose Spray, and Fawn Organics Bathroom Cleaner.

This powerful, plant-based trio targets the 3 main areas VOCs are being released into homes: the laundry room, the kitchen, and the bathroom. With low levels of VOCs and free of harsh chemicals, vapors, and residues, these cleaning products safely and effectively clean your home without compromising your health.

Visit Fawn Organics’ shop to explore more safe, eco-friendly cleaning products!

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