Volatile Organic Chemicals

What are Volatile Organic Chemicals?
Volatile Organic Chemicals, also known as VOCs, are widely used as ingredients in household products. Cleaners, degreasers, disinfectants and cosmetics contain VOCs. Paints, varnishes, adhesives, glues and other hobby related materials and fuels also contain high levels of VOCs. When used or stored in the home, all of these products release VOCs into the atmosphere, sometimes posing a health risk.

Specific VOCs
The volatile organic chemicals benzene, methylene chloride, and perchloroethelyne are particularly harmful, and can be found in specific products. Benzene is a known human carcinogen that is found in tobacco smoke, fuel, paint supplies, and car exhaust. Methylene chloride, known to cause cancer in animals, is converted into carbon monoxide in the body. It can be found in paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol paint removers. Perchloroethylene is a chemical used in dry cleaning and is shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Studies show it is inhaled in areas where dry cleaned goods are stored or when worn.  There are other well known VOCs such as, asbestos, formaldehyde, and pesticides which are covered at length in additional brochures we have available.

Health Effects of Volatile Organic Chemicals
The effects of volatile organic chemicals, on humans varies greatly. Some chemicals are known to be highly toxic, while others have no known health effects. These chemicals can affect different individuals in different ways, with the extent and nature of the effects depending on the level of exposure as well as the length of time exposed. People exposed to VOCs report a wide range of health effects, including eye and respiratory irritation, visual disorders, dizziness, and headaches immediately after exposure.  Volatile organic chemicals are known cancer causing agents in animals, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Reducing Exposure
The most important step in reducing exposure to volatile organic chemicals is to read and follow directions on the label. Working in a ventilated area and using rubber gloves is highly recommended.  Another way to reduce exposure to volatile organic chemicals, is to properly dispose of your partially full containers of chemicals that are old or no longer needed. Gases can leak from sealed containers, so this step alone may contribute greatly to reducing  your exposure.  Also, when buying products that contain volatile organic chemicals, buy only as much as you need immediate use.

Volatile Organic Chemicals and New Carpet
If you are installing new carpet in your home, it may be wise to take some precautions.  New carpets may contain harmful chemicals. A variety of health symptoms have been reported in association with new carpet installation. Some precautions you may wish to take are:
Ask your carpet retailer for information on carpet emissions.

Ask to have your new carpet unrolled and ventilated before it is installed in your home.
If adhesives are needed for the installation of your new carpet, ask for low emitting adhesives.

Leave the premises during and immediately after the installation of your carpet.
Check to see if your installer is following instillation guidelines.
Increasing ventilation in your home during and after installation is a good idea. Open doors and windows if possible,  and use exhaust fans for 48 to 72 hours after installation.
If odors persist,  contact your carpet retailer.
Follow the manufacturers instructions for care and maintenance of your carpet.