VOCs: What, Why Where

Earlier today I shared a post about how IVF scientists cannot wear perfume because it impacts the development of the embryo.

That is not the only exposure to volatile organic compounds though… so I wanted to dive a little deeper for you all…


What is a VOC?

The EPA describes it as: “any compound of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions.”

Why are VOCs dangerous?

Developmental delays – especially dangerous when trying to conceive, or during pregnancy.
– Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat
– Can cause difficulty breathing and nausea
– Can damage the central nervous system as well as other organ damage
– Headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea
– Liver, kidney, lung and central nervous system damage
– Fatigue and dizziness
– Substantial endocrine and reproductive toxicants
– Some VOCs have been directly linked to causing cancer, while others are suspected to cause cancer


Where do you find VOCs?

Home building materials are the #1 offender: Paint, spray paint, varnishes, calks, adhesives, carpet, solvents, hardwood sealants, vinyl flooring, and composite wood products. New campers have even higher levels of VOCs than most new homes.

Safer solutions:
  • Choose all LOW VOC building materials, or choose to buy 4+ years after building for ample time to off-gas
    Home furnishings (including those for baby): Treated upholstery furniture, area rugs, mattresses, memory foam, couch/chair foam cushions, dining table sealants
  • Choose all LOW VOC options, never treated or “easy to clean” upholstery, or buy second hand
    Home cleaning/freshening: Conventional air fresheners, conventional candles, conventional cleaning products, moth repellants,
    Safer solutions: All available on my Master List
  • Personal care: Cosmetics, skincare, perfume, lotion, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, nail polish, nail polish remover, aerosol sprays
  • All available on my Master List
    Other exposures: Dry Cleaning, second hand smoke, fuel oil, gasoline, pesticides, herbicides, craft supplies like glues, liquid cements, adhesives, and permanent markers