VOCs: How Low Can You Go?
Low VOCs. We’ve all heard that term used on the news and on social media. We know that the “low” part is a good thing. We know that VOCs in general are something that we should be looking out for. However, what exactly are VOCs? Where do we find them? How can we keep them from being too high?
Fortunately, we had all the same questions you did before we started LIFECORE®, so not only can we give you some answers, we can also provide a few solutions.
First, let’s clear up the obvious question. What are VOCs?
What exactly are VOCs?
VOC stands for volatile organic compound, which certainly sounds scary enough to understand why its initials are used. At concentrated levels, VOCs emit chemicals in a gas form that seep into the air you and your family breathe. This is what’s called “off-gassing” (you’ve probably heard that term, too). Off-gassing occurs from many of the common materials already in our homes, such as cabinets, paint, cleaning products, tobacco smoke, polishes, waxes, and various types of flooring that have been treated with synthetic materials containing VOCs. One of the most common VOCs you can find in these products, thus in your home environment, is formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is tricky. Not only can it be an additive to synthetic materials, but it also occurs naturally in virtually everything around us, including our own bodies, so to be completely formaldehyde-free is impossible. However, it’s only when the levels are too high or concentrated that they potentially become toxic, having short and long-term effects on the health. Note: This is when the “low” part of “low VOCs” becomes a thing, and why it’s so important to make sure the products coming into your home do not add to the naturally existing formaldehyde levels.
So now that we’re in a complete panic as to whether or not our countertop will kill us in our sleep, let’s provide a little reassurance. The off-gassing that occurs in the average home is generally at levels safe enough. However, to those with asthma, migraines, breathing issues, or other such ailments, any increase in formaldehyde or other VOCs can affect their quality of life.
So now to the last and most important question. What you can do to keep VOC levels low in your home? Here are a few tips that we’ve come across that can help you reduce the VOCs in your home or office without completely cramping your style:
- Increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs. Meet or exceed any label precautions.
- Do not store opened containers of unused paints and similar materials within any room (including the garage) that is attached to the house.
- Limit your use of air fresheners unless they specifically say that they are environmentally safe.
- Use integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for pesticides.
- Turn off computers and other electronics when not in use as they can off-gas.
- Use household products according to manufacturer’s directions. Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.
- Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.
- Open the windows and circulate with fresh air whenever possible. In colder weather, use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms to help pull pollutants out of the air.
- Using a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 45% helps limit emissions, as off-gassing occurs at a higher rate when humidity is high.
- Get an air-filtering houseplant or two, or three.
- Toss your plastic shower curtain and reduce the amount of any products in your home that contain PVC or other off-gassing plastics.
- Go green with as many products as you can, especially cleaning products, as they can contain multiple offenders.
There is one more suggestion that we have. When it comes time for new flooring, consider an engineered hardwood floor, by LIFECORE®, of course. LIFECORE® hardwood’s ZERO-ADD® technology eliminates the use of formaldehyde and uses a proprietary process with low VOC additives for every part of manufacturing. This process eliminates harmful emissions without compromising performance, durability, or design. That means that you and your family can breathe easier knowing that your beautiful floor is among the healthiest options. You’re welcome.
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