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  • Writer's pictureAttracta Roach


Home is where you should feel safe and secure. You happily go about picking furnishings and interior decorations to make your home special, but do you realise that some of your furnishings could be emitting toxic gases? I think not! There is usually a lot of excitement when buying a new couch or chairs. The last thing you would think about is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

VOCs can be found everywhere, as they are natural and man-made. Some VOCs don’t affect us and are important in nature e.g. the communication between plants and animals. However, there are some VOCs that are dangerous to our health and can be toxic to the environment. The place of most concern is indoors, where the concentrations of such gases are at their highest.

VOCs are organic compounds (chemicals) that are found in all living things that easily produce or become gases at room temperature. The majority of VOCs are produced by plants, but animals, bacteria and fungi. The toxic effect of VOCs usually occurs with long term exposure and the symptoms develop slowly, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Over 400 compounds have been identified in the home to be VOCs, but not all of them are toxic.

So where can you find VOCs?

  • Household paints

  • New carpets and home furnishings

  • Burning of wood stoves

  • Air fresheners

  • Particle board, plywood, pressed wood products,

  • New plastics

  • Electronics

  • Deodorants, shampoos and cosmetics

  • Dry cleaned clothing, insect repellents

As you can imagine people with respiratory problems such as asthma, young children, elderly, and persons are at the highest risk. If you are sensitive to VOCs, you will be more susceptible to illness from VOCs. People can tend to have headaches or dizziness, but they are also at risk of having respiratory tract irritation, visual disorders, memory impairment, central nervous system damage and the risk of cancer.

So how do you minimize exposure:

  1. Ensure your home is well ventilated.

  2. Keep the temperature and humidity low.

  3. Buy solid wood furnishings instead of pressed wood.

  4. Consider buying antique furniture.

  5. When buying paint, buy “Low-VOC” and “Zero-VOC”.

  6. Allow new products to gas-off before bringing them into the home

  7. Seal pressed wood or particle board with “Low -VOC” varnish or paint before bringing indoors.

  8. Avoid introducing plastics to your home.

  9. Avoid buying food wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam. And definitely do not microwave with the food wrapping still on.

  10. Set up open wood and gas fires in a well ventilated room.

If you think you have been exposed to VOCs, you should contact your health care professional.

If you are making changes to your interiors or are building a new home, now is your chance to avoid introducing “high-VOC” furnishings and fixtures. Let us know what you are going to do to avoid VOCs. We hope this article has helped with your decisions.

Be earthly passionate,

Attracta & the earthly passion team

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