Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in household products and building materials that release harmful toxins as gas. VOC concentrations are up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. Though the term volatile organic compound probably doesn’t appear often in your vocabulary, the pollutants are often found in household products used daily.
Chemicals release into the environment in a process called “off-gassing” and sometimes emit an odor. Items with a strong scent usually present a higher health risk, though unscented items aren’t always safe either. VOCs can off-gas for a short time or for a few years. Using items with high levels of VOCs may increase the risk of exposure to high pollutant levels and a variety of short- and long-term health effects.
A lack of ventilation and air purification can lead to the accumulation of more than just chemicals. Pet dander, dust, pollen, bacteria, and cleaning supply residue and odors might contribute to sick building syndrome (SBS). Someone may get SBS as a result of spending too much time in a building with tight construction and poor air quality. SBS, in addition to VOCs, may present a wide range of health risks to homeowners.
For more information on the health effects of volatile organic compounds, where they’re usually found in the home and chemical alternatives, read our resource.