There exist a number of seemingly innocent household materials that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We’ve compiled a list of seven organic compounds found in your home below to help you protect yourself and your family against harmful VOCs.

  1. Acetone. Acetone is commonly found in nail polish remover, furniture polish and wallpaper. Breathing moderate to high amounts of acetone for even a short amount of time can irritate your nose, throat, lungs and eyes and even your skin, if it comes into direct contact. Using products with a different solvent, like alcohol, instead of acetone can help guide you and your family toward a more VOC-free home.
  2. Benzene. Benzene can be found in paint, glue, carpeting and emissions from gasoline combustion. Benzene has been determined by the Department of Health and Human Services to be a known carcinogen that can cause cancer and may be harmful to reproductive organs.
  3. Butanal. Butanal is found in emissions from barbecues, burning candles, stoves and cigarettes. By not smoking and avoiding smokers and second-hand smoke, you can reduce your exposure to the harmful health risks associated with exposure to butanal. Using beeswax, soy-based and cotton-wicked candles are perhaps the safest alternatives to burn and may help reduce your exposure to VOCs.
  4. Carbon Disulfide. Carbon disulfide is found in chlorinated tap water and can pose a number of health risks if you are exposed to, or come into direct contact with, carbon disulfide. Some of the biggest risks include skin irritation or burns if exposed directly, or headache, confusion, psychosis and coma if exposed to carbon disulfide vapor. One of the easiest way to avoid this VOC is to have a charcoal or carbon-filtration system for your drinking water.
  5. Dichlorobenzene. Dichlorobenzene is often found in mothballs and deodorizers and is another known carcinogen. Exposure can cause headache, dizziness, swelling around the eyes, nausea and vomiting. For dichlorobenzene, it may be best to simply skip mothballs altogether and use cedar chips, air-tight containers or garment bags. The scent of lavender also repels moths.
  6. Ethanol. Ethanol is found in glass cleaners, dishwasher detergents and laundry detergents. Ethanol inhalation can cause cough or headache and other serious health risks when ingested. When using products that contain ethanol, specifically cleaning products, it is important to open windows or create an effective air-filtration system that can absorb the chemicals.
  7. Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is commonly found in floor lacquers and certain molded plastics. Formaldehyde can pose a number of significant health risks, like an increased risk of asthma and allergies in children, ALS, and cancer.  Water-based polyurethane finishes and natural plant-chemistry-based floor finishes in lieu of formaldehyde-containing products. To further improve your protection from harmful VOCs associated with formaldehyde, you should try to remove as much plastic as possible from your daily life and use BPA-free plastics.

If you believe your home or building contains harmful VOCs that may pose risks to you, or your family members’, health, you should have your home tested for VOCs by experienced and professional technician. Contact Rarefied Air Environmental today for a quote on VOC testing in San Diego!

What are the most common VOCs found throughout your home?