Some household products emit chemicals into the air

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are a large group of carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature. Commonly found in many household products including carpets, cleaning products and adhesives, they emit potentially harmful levels of chemicals into the air for many months after application.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, research has shown that high or prolonged exposure to VOCs can yield adverse effects, including eye and throat irritation, headaches, asthma, liver damage, complications to the central nervous system and cancer.
VOCs are also a principal contributor to ground-level ozone, a major factor of urban smog. As if that weren’t close enough, when VOCs find their way into landfills or are improperly disposed of, they can leach into the water supply.
The first step to reducing your exposure to VOCs is identifying the sources of these toxins within your living environment. Some common sources are building materials and home and personal care products; they also come into the home from common hobbies or behaviors. Formaldehyde, which is responsible for high VOC levels in some homes, is a common component in carpets, particle board and many cleaning products and preserving agents.
Once you have identified the likely sources of VOCs in your home, you can choose to replace or mitigate the off-gassing effect of these products as you undertake renovations or even in your spring cleaning efforts. Here are six helpful hints for limiting the effects of VOCs in your home, compiled by the National Association of Realtors on their website HouseLogic.com:
•  Break the habit of buying household cleaners or other chemicals in bulk to save money and simply buy what you need. Stored chemicals are a major source of VOCs.
•  Paints, paint thinners, pesticides and gas cans are a major source of VOCs. If possible, store these items away from the house in a detached storage shed or garage. This is a great place to also store gas-powered tools such as lawn mowers, snow blowers and chain saws. If you have leftover pesticides, paint and other chemicals, contact your municipal waste department to find out where you can dispose of them safely.
•  If your storage space is attached to the house, seal up any connections between your garage and living area. Weatherstrip your garage access door and make sure that the threshold gasket is snugged up tight.
•  Weather permitting, open windows and run exhaust fans when you’re working with paints and pungent cleaners. Trust your nose — if you can smell it, you’re whiffing VOCs. That includes any time you bring vinyl or plastic items (say, a new shower curtain) or dry-cleaned clothes into the house. If weather permits, remove covers and packaging from items and set them outside for a while to off-gas — at least until they don’t smell. Schedule major interior paint jobs for good weather so you can open up windows.
•  Bathroom and kitchen fans are great for removing VOCs from the air, especially because cooking and cleaning can release some potent, even carcinogenic, compounds. But if you run exhaust fans constantly, you create negative air pressure inside the house that may draw air — and VOCs — from your attached garage into your home. Run fans until any chemical or smoke smell dissipates, then turn them off. If you use your garage as a regular work area for VOC-generating hobbies, such as woodworking, install an exhaust fan to the outside. Exhaust fans cost $250 to $400, installed.
•  Choose cleaning products and air fresheners (both plug-in and spray) carefully, specifically watching out for a fragrant chemical called terpene. Terpenes are commonly found in natural substances, such as pine resins. When confined inside a house, terpenes react with naturally occurring ozone in the air and form compounds that can negatively affect the respiratory system and cause long-term health problems.

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