terms you'll want to know:
(Total Volatile Organic Compounds) are the accumulated sum of
emissions from many VOCs such as in a product or within an interior.
or low-emitting materials give minimal VOC exposure to occupants,
particularly as compared with similar products.
(Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds) are volatile compounds
produced by molds and released into the air. These compounds often
have strong and/or unpleasant odors. Exposure to mVOCs has been
linked to negative health symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation,
dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. Research on mVOCs is still in
the early phases.
Outgas or Offgas: the process of the vaporizing (or evaporation)
of VOCs released from a material.
VOCs generally come from sources that most of society is unaware
and takes for granted such VOCs offgassed from such things
as the ink of newspapers and magazines, cleaning products, carpeting,
furniture, adhesives, insulation, plywood and particleboard, pesticides,
and residues on leather, synthetic fabrics, synthetic polymer
based furnishings and decorative materials. Additional sources
come from fragrances, cleaning products and countless consumer
Some of the worst known offenders are:
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a pungent odor and a suspected carcinogen. Yet, it is one of the most commonly used chemicals in many manufacturing processes and products, and said to exist in about 3,000 different products. It is used in insulation, bonding and laminating agents, adhesives, paper and textile products, deodorants, disinfectants, chip board, particleboard and plywood from which most furniture, countertops and shelving is made. Formaldehyde can offgas from these products for years. 10 to 20% of the population is sensitive to this compound, which can cause many individualized symptoms including neuropsychologic effects.
Vinyl Chloride: Vinyl is primarily made from polyvinyl chloride
(PVC) and plasticizing compounds that make it pliable. The softer
the vinyl, the more plasticizers. Construction materials account
for 70% of all PVC. Some of the products include adhesives, piping,
upholstery, wallcovering, windows, doors, gutters and artificial
grass. Many consumer products also contain PVC, including substantial
child and infant items, and food and toiletry packaging containers.
PVC offgasses vinyl chloride, which is known to cause cancer,
birth defects, endocrine disruption, respiratory and other health
problems. Some of the plasticizers are known carcinogens. It can
take years for some of them to completely offgas.
4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PC) is a reaction of 2 chemicals found in conventional
carpet backing made with styrene butadiene (SB) latex. It can
usually be identified as the "new carpet smell." 4-PC
has been very controversial with little data gathered concerning
individuals who have gotten ill after new carpeting has been laid.
There have been enough complaints to encourage the carpet industry
to reduce the average concentration of 4-PC by about 80%.
It is important to purchase products with low- or no-VOCs. Many are available. For example, paints, adhesives, insulation, natural fiber carpeting and plywood. Carefully select your children's products to avoid vinyl with offgassing dioxin, particularly those they may put in their mouth.