What are VOCs and why are they so bad?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. Many common household materials and products, such as paint, furniture, floor coatings and carpet, outgas VOCs such as benzene, formaldehyde and toluene to varying levels. These VOCs can have a dramatic impact on indoor air quality and therefore health.

When used in building or interior products, VOCs slowly make their way to the surface and evaporate into the surrounding air. Over time, this off-gassing reduces and the smell is no longer as apparent. With so many items in the home containing VOCs, the collective impact of these gases can quickly impact your health, according to the Australian Government’s Your Home website.

A common VOC is formaldehyde, a colourless gas with a pungent odour which is also a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is found in resins used to manufacture pressed wood products such as plywood and particleboard commonly used for panelling, furniture, kitchens and cabinetry.

Research has shown that short term exposure to VOCs can cause the following health issues:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness and skin problems.

Long term exposure can cause:

  • Lung irritation
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage

There is some good news though – as you control the environment inside your home, you can reduce your exposure to harmful VOCs.

Here are some ways you can reduce VOC gases making their way into the air around you at home:

  • Storing chemicals including paints and cleaning products in a garage or shed where possible
  • Choose furniture make locally from companies that specialise in low VOC furniture
  • Improving ventilation in your home by opening windows to let fresh air in

If you’re thinking of renovating your home, this is the ideal opportunity to use products that will lower your exposure to VOCs. Here are some tips

  • Use non-toxic zero-VOC paints where possible.

Most leading paint brands outgas VOCs for three to five years after application. At The Good Tradie we care about your health, so when we’re sourcing materials to use in your home, we strive to use zero-VOC and low-VOC products where possible.

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