Why should I avoid VOCs? This is an especially crucial question when choosing the best paint for a porch or an environmentally friendly spray paint. Why should I avoid VOCs when painting my baby’s room or my own bedroom?
What Are VOCs?
VOCs are volatile organic compounds. These compounds can easily turn to a gas and release into the environment around them. They are released when gasoline, coal, natural gas, or would get burned. They are also given off by many products that consumers use every day including cigarettes, many paints and primers, adhesives, glues, cleaners and disinfectants, building materials, furniture, pesticides, dry cleaning fluids, and many more.
Where Will I Run into VOCs?
They can be found everywhere both indoors and outdoors. Frighteningly, many people’s indoor air is worse in quality than outdoor air. It’s possible to be exposed to large doses of VOCs by living too close to a major highway, by putting in new carpet, by painting floors, or by living around people who spend a lot of time smoking or using homebuilding projects.
How Do VOCs Enter the Body?
The most common way that VOCs will enter our bodies is by breathing. We breathe the vapors and gases that are released by home furnishings and building materials, by cleaning products, by vehicle exhaust, by fuel emissions, and buy secondhand smoke. It’s also possible to absorb VOCs through the skin by touching products made with volatile organic compounds.
Why Should I Avoid VOCs?
There are short-term and long-term consequences to being exposed to VOCs.
Short Term Exposure
The consequences of short-term exposure can include headaches, difficulty with vision, dizziness, problems with memory, and irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract. Because these symptoms can also be caused by other issues, it can be difficult to know whether or not they are being caused by VOCs
.Long Term Exposure
The long-term exposure to VOCs can cause nausea, fatigue, loss of coordination, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. If exposure continues for extended periods of time, and especially for small developing infants, it can result in damage to the central nervous system or to organs like the liver and kidneys that process toxins in the body. VOCs have also been linked to increased incidence of cancer.
And I At Risk
There are certain people who are more at risk than others. High-risk groups include very young children and the elderly. People with asthma or other breathing issues can be far more susceptible to the short-term effects of VOCs. Both smokers and those who live with them are exposed to far higher levels of VOCs than the rest of the population, all other things being equal. Finally, those who regularly work in building, remodeling, or crafting may be frequently exposed to volatile organic compounds
What Can I Do?
There are several things we can do to minimize exposure and risk when it comes to VOCs:
- Stop smoking. Both the smoker themselves and everyone else in the family is at risk. VOC levels will go down immediately if you quit.
- Buy low VOC paint or low odor paint. Paints, primers, and thinners with low and even no levels of VOCs are constantly being developed. Look for paints that are labeled as low in VOCs.
- Avoid items made in China. China is one of the worst offenders when it comes to volatile organic compounds. From Chinese drywall to Chinese plastic, you can greatly minimize your exposure to VOCs by minimizing your exposure to household items and building materials produced by China.
- Stay off the roadway. If possible, move away from busy roads. When you take a walk, always walk in wooded areas and not along the side of the street. Make sure that the filter on your car is in good working order and regularly changed out so you’re not breathing in all the fuel emissions from the cars around you.
- Wash your hands. If you’ve been working with materials that give off VOCs or contain them, always wash your hands thoroughly when you’re finished.
Why should I avoid VOCs? Because they are damaging to you and your family. Take the steps necessary to protect yourself and enjoy good health.