The VOCs danger: Everyday products such as perfume, skin lotion, hair spray, deodorant, household cleaners are a top source of air pollution

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.

Everyday products such as perfume, skin lotion, hair spray, deodorant, household cleaners and lawn pesticides are a top source of air pollution, as damaging to air quality as the exhaust from cars and trucks, according to a new report.

Consumer products containing compounds refined from petroleum all release small amounts of smog-producing particles into the air, the researchers explained.

Combined, these products now release as many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere as vehicle emissions do.

The use of these products emits VOCs in a magnitude that's comparable to what comes out of the tailpipe of your car.

Remember: Consumer products are designed to release VOCs into the air. That's what they do.

Sources of VOCs

Household products, including:

paints, paint strippers and other solvents
wood preservatives
aerosol sprays
cleansers and disinfectants
moth repellents and air fresheners
stored fuels and automotive products
hobby supplies
dry-cleaned clothing

Other products, including:

building materials and furnishings
office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.

Health Effects from VOCs

Health effects may include:

Eye, nose and throat irritation
Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include:

conjunctival irritation
nose and throat discomfort
allergic skin reaction
declines in serum cholinesterase levels

Steps to Reduce Exposure to VOCs

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 the school.
Formaldehyde, one of the best known VOCs, is one of the few indoor air pollutants that can be readily measured.
Identify, and if possible, remove the source.
If not possible to remove, reduce exposure by using a sealant on all exposed surfaces of paneling and other furnishings.
Use integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for pesticides.
Use household products according to manufacturer's directions.
Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.
Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.
Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.


Household Products May Pollute the Air as Much as Your Car Does: Study. WebMD,
Volatile Organic Compounds' Impact on Indoor Air Quality | US EPA

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