What Are Odorless VOCs?
As you may already know, VOCs are volatile organic compounds are molecules that get into your indoor air as they evaporate. While there are some VOCs that exist naturally, others are brought into the home during home refurbishment projects and everyday activities. Many VOCs have odors; homeowners often determine whether VOCs are harmful based on these odors. As a result, many companies, such as paint, carpeting or cleaning product companies, have turned to creating odorless products.
Are Odorless Products Harmful?
Unfortunately, products that claim to be odorless are not necessarily VOC-free. As an example, we can look at paint. As more homeowners have become aware that the paint vapors can contribute to poor indoor air quality, paint companies have been working to reduce the odors that are associated with paint. If you look at the label, however, you may see a warning that states that the product contains certain chemicals and vapors that can be extremely harmful to at-risk individuals, including young children and pregnant women.
There are certain products that are always going to have VOCs regardless of whether or not they have odors. The problem with low-odor products is that homeowners often do not realize that the product, whether that be an adhesive, paint or a cleaning product, may continue to give off odorless fumes for a long period of time after the product is applied.
What are the Ways to Avoid Products with Odorless VOCs?
When you are purchasing products, such as cleaning materials, paint or craft supplies, the Environmental Protection Agency requires dangerous products to include certain words on the product labels. For easy reference, these words are:
- Dangerous: This word indicates that the product can be extremely harmful or could even result in death if used without proper ventilation.
- Warning: If a product has this word on the label, it can potentially result in injury or illness.
- Caution: If this product gets on the skin or in the eyes, it can cause irritation.
Essentially, these signal words indicate that a product may have VOCs even if they do not have release an odor when used.
There are also certain chemicals that produce VOCs. For example, benzene, styrene, acetone and ethylene glycol all often have harmful VOCs associated with them. Because it can be very difficult to keep track of all of the chemicals that can decrease the quality of your indoor air, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a database that contains a list of all products that are sold. The database includes health hazards and whether or not vapors are released. This can be particularly helpful if you are unsure about the information on the product labels.
Odorless does not Mean that the Product is Harmless
It is always important to remember that certain products are just more likely to have VOCs and toxic chemicals. Even if the packaging claims that the product has a low odor, it is best to investigate what is actually in the product. If the product must be used, use the product in a well-ventilated area and that the product has some time to dry and dissipate.
Will My Home Ever be Free of VOCs?
Unfortunately, VOCs are found in such a wide variety of products that it is very difficult to avoid them. All homes normally have a background level that represents the normal amount of VOCs that are often found. However, using products that are more environmentally friendly can help to reduce the levels of VOCs that may be found in the air that you normally breathe.