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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), volatile organic compounds are gases that come from various solids or liquids that are commonly found in your home. Some of the more common gases and liquids can include paint, varnish, cleaning and disinfecting agents and cosmetics. Exposure to the gases given off by these substances can have both long- and short-term adverse effects on your health. It is best to read labels so that you correctly use and safely store these substances.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate into the air at room temperature. Along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur, or nitrogen. VOCs are commonly referred to as solvents. Many volatile organic compounds are also hazardous air pollutants. They are found in everyday household items such as paints, paint strippers, varnishes, lacquers, wood preservatives, craft kits, glues, fuels, aerosols, cleaners, pesticides, cigarette smoke, pressed wood products, and dry-cleaned clothes. Formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, perchloroethylene (PERC), and acetone are among the many chemicals that are all considered VOCs.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in many household products. Examples of VOCs include acetone, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. Exposure to volatile organic compounds may cause symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and eye, nose and throat irritation.
Products that may contain volatile organic compounds include:
- New furniture and carpets.
- Paints, paint strippers and other solvents
- Wood preservatives, hobby supplies and dry-cleaned clothing.
- Aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants.
- Moth repellents and air fresheners.
Volatile organic compounds may cause serious symptoms, such as loss of coordination, liver damage and damage to the central nervous system. Some volatile organic compounds are suspected to cause cancer in humans and are known to cause cancer in animals.
The level and length of exposure to volatile organic compounds determine the health effects. Controlling exposure or only using household products with adequate fresh-air ventilation may prevent serious health effects.
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