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What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

You can find volatile organic compounds in all sorts of products. There are literally thousands of chemicals that produce VOCs. So, how do you avoid filling your home with VOCs?
What are volatile organic compounds vocs

If you have been researching foam insulation or even home improvement products, you may have come across the term “off-gassing,” “volatile organic compounds,” or seen the abbreviation VOC. If you are interested in going green, you may have read about finding products with low VOCs. But what does this all mean?

Volatile Organic Compounds – What are they?

According to the website, “Volatile organic compounds are compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility.” Simply put, VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. When a product gives off VOCs, this is called off-gassing. Where are they found?

You can find volatile organic compounds in all sorts of products. Do you know that new car smell that so many people love? That smell is a result of off-gassing. Research has shown that VOCs are up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. There are literally thousands of chemicals that produce VOCs, but here is a list of some products you might use often.

  • Home improvement materials including but are not limited to paint, varnish, caulk, adhesive, carpet, vinyl, upholstery, foam, paint strippers, and wax.
  • Everyday household items such as air fresheners, cleaning products, cosmetics, cooking, hobby supplies, aerosol sprays, moth repellents, pesticides, and even permanent markers
  • Some things you come into contact with but might not give much thought to also release VOCs, such as oil, gasoline, smoking, and burning wood. Even dry cleaned clothing and photocopiers off-gas

Are they dangerous?

The truth of the matter is that volatile organic compounds range from having little to no known health effects to being highly toxic. It is important to know that not all VOCs emit an odor. But just because the odor isn’t there doesn’t mean the VOCs aren’t there. Likewise, just because a product has a strong smell doesn’t mean that product is super harmful. It is also important to note that VOCs are at their greatest when a product is new. This is why the “new” smell eventually goes away. To find out what chemicals to stay away from, refer to the Prop 65 List

Level of exposure and length of exposure plays a role in how some VOCs will affect you. Some health effects you may experience soon after exposure may include eye irritation, respiratory tract irritation, dizziness, and headaches. Other effects may include an allergic skin reaction and fatigue. More serious exposure to VOCs can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. 

How can I avoid them?

The most important question is, how do you avoid filing your home with VOCs? The truth is, you will not be able to avoid all of them, but you can limit your exposure by doing a few simple things. The first thing to do is make sure that you use products the way they are intended. Always make sure you are reading the instructions on safely using a product. Do not mix products. Once you use a product, properly dispose of any unused materials. Second, make sure your home is adequately ventilated. When working with products, use fans, and even windows to circulate fresh air. Lastly, you can choose to use products rated as low VOC. This will ensure that you are getting the highest quality of a product.

RetroFoam of the Carolinas

Our goal at RetroFoam of the Carolinas is to increase your comfort level in your home. We want to make your home more energy-efficient, and we also want to do all we can to keep you and your loved ones safe. We make sure that we use the highest quality of materials for these reasons. 

Our injection foam does not off-gas. It is also non-toxic and will not be corrosive to the pipes or wires in your walls. (see the RetroFoam Tech Facts here) Spray foam does off-gas and emits VOCs, but we use a high-quality spray foam that is rated as low VOC

Contact one of our foam specialists for more answers and information about our products. We can not wait to help make your home a better place.

Essential Buying Guide For Injection Insulation


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