The air pollution conversation used to revolve almost entirely around pollutants emitted from gas-burning vehicles. But in the age of electric, hybrid, and other clean, fuel-efficient cars, and during a time when people are spending more time indoors than ever before–that conversation is starting to change toward volatile chemical products (VCPs).
“It’s time to think about the indoor environment as being a source of pollution the same way we’ve thought about cars contributing to pollution in the past.”
This quote is from Matthew Coggon, a Research Scientist II of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Chemical Sciences Division of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.
Thanks to recent studies in Los Angeles, we can see that volatile chemical products contribute as much to the abundance of urban volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as the emissions from motor vehicles.
What are Volatile Chemical Products and Volatile Organic Compounds?
VCPs are products that easily become vapors or gases and are predominantly emitted in the indoor environment, where they release VOCs. They can then be transported to the outdoors via building exhaust where they add to the pollution of the ozone layer.
VOCs are up to 10x higher indoors. They are also released from several everyday consumer products containing volatile chemicals.
Listed below are common Volatile Chemical Products:
- Paints and thinners
- Air fresheners
- Personal care products (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, etc.)
- Solvents found in adhesives, cosmetics, cleaners, spot removers, nail polish removers, lacquers, and dry-cleaning fluid
- Copy machines and printers
- Building materials and furnishings
The top two categories of indoor air pollution and volatile chemical products are personal care products and adhesives.
The good news is that there are several ways to keep VOCs out of your home.
Control and Eliminate sources of VOCs
- Look for fragrance-free products that don’t contain fragrance materials or masking scents.
- Be careful not to confuse unscented for fragrance-free, as unscented typically means that chemicals have been used in the product to neutralize or mask the odor of other ingredients.
- Choose non-toxic cleaning products that are water-based as opposed to products containing solvents.
- Reduce the overall use of personal care products.
- Don’t stock up on products that you only use occasionally, rather buy only what you will use right away so you’re not storing unnecessary chemicals in your home.
- Things like paint, fuel, and chemicals should be stored far away from your living space.
Use As Directed
- Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when it comes to storing household products that contain chemicals.
- Never mix household cleaners or other chemicals unless the label gives specific directions.
- Keep all products out of reach of pets and children.
Purify Your Air
- Use an air purifier or whole home ventilation to ensure a healthy indoor environment for your family.
- Aprilaire Air Purifiers reduce airborne pollutants, allergens, microbes, odors, and more. They can be a key piece in reducing the amount of VOCs in your home.
National Institutes of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29449485
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association https://research.noaa.gov/article/ArtMID/587/ArticleID/2335/Consumer-industrial-products-now-a-major-urban-air-pollution-source
University of Colorado https://cires.colorado.edu/researcher/matthew-coggon