The chemicals in your air that we’re most interested in are commonly referred to as VOCs, and we have quite a bit to say about them…

What is a VOC, exactly?

VOCs aren’t one specific thing–VOC (volatile organic compound) is an umbrella term used to describe any organic chemical that evaporates easily at room temperature.

Why should you care?

A straightforward answer: any organic chemical that evaporates easily at room temperature is in the air you breathe. In fact, there’s a very high chance you’re breathing in VOCs right now.

VOCs can sometimes come in scary packages–like Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Acetone. While VOCs aren’t acutely toxic (they won’t poison and kill you in your sleep), there’s evidence that they cause a variety of health problems. Eczema flare-ups, allergies, asthma, and headaches have all been linked to VOCs. Long-term exposure to VOCs has also been known to contribute to organ damage and cancer.

Getting rid of your VOCs

No need to throw out every VOC-emitting product in your house– by adopting a few new habits you can easily live with safer air. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. If you’re using a scented candle, a space heater, painting, or cleaning, crack a window. If you’re cooking, use the fan on your range hood.
  • Avoid buying pressed wood furniture and consider buying at least some antique furniture, which has had plenty of time for VOCs to off-gas. You can also look for furniture with Greenguard certification.
  • Be choosy about the items you purchase for your home. common household and cosmetic products for VOC levels. If you buy products in bulk, store extra products outdoors or in your garage.
  • Get VOC-absorbing plants like English ivy or Boston fern. A single plant isn’t likely to make much of a dent in VOC levels — you’ll want one or two plants per 100 square feet.
  • Get an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair. Everyone’s home is different, and the best way to judge your own personal levels are to measure them directly and track them over time.

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