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Volatile Organic Compounds (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.1

The Facts

VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.2


Examples of VOCs include:

  • Paints
  • Lacquers
  • Paint strippers
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Pesticides
  • Building materials and furnishings
  • Glues and adhesives3


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 damage4

Actions 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 label5


Contact GHHI to see how you can keep your home safe from VOCs.