About VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released as gases from certain solids or liquids. Per the EPA, concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.


The Facts

Examples of VOCs include:

  • Paints
  • Lacquers
  • Paint strippers
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Pesticides
  • Building materials and furnishings
  • Glues and adhesives

The Risks

Health Effects of VOCs

Short-term (Acute) symptoms due to high levels of VOCs

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Worsening of asthma symptoms

Long-term (chronic) symptoms due to high levels of VOCs

  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage

Steps you can take

The EPA offers the following steps you can take to reduce VOC exposure:

  1. Increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs
  2. Meet or exceed any label precautions
  3. Do not store opened containers of unused paints and similar materials inside your home
  4. Use household products according to manufacturer's directions
  5. Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products
  6. Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon
  7. Keep containers out of reach of children and pets
  8. Never mix household care products unless directed on the label

The Green & Healthy Homes Quiz is a quick and easy way to determine if your home has any potential hazards and what you can do to address them.