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What are VOCs?

If you have been following the news on environment and health, you might have heard of VOCs and their harmful effects. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are organic chemicals that contain carbon and have ability to evaporate at room temperature.

There are thousands of natural and synthetic chemicals that are classified as VOCs. Being a VOC does not automatically makes you a bad guy. For example, pine forests naturally produce many different volatile compounds. Volatility simply refers to how easily a substance can evaporate into the air.

It becomes problematic when the chemical in question is also toxic, because volatility greatly increases the chances of that chemical being inhaled. And because most of us live in cities and are surrounded by a gazillion of synthetic chemicals everywhere every day, our chances of inhaling something nasty these days are sadly much higher than being exposed to the inane aroma of pine.

Where are toxic VOCs found?

Toxic VOCs that contribute to air pollution are found everywhere around us, but their concentration is significantly higher indoors than outdoors. Given that we spend much of our time indoors, we should be concerned about air quality in our homes as it has significant impact on our wellbeing and health.

VOCs are found everywhere from building products, walls, floors, paints and furnishings to cleaning product and office equipment. They’re even found in perfumes, lotions and deodorants – and mostly anything that is intended to make us smell good. They can even be found in your mattress. Cheaper foam based mattresses emit high levels of VOC.

Does Koala’s mattress contain any VOCs?

The Koala mattress, in case you were wondering, has been laboratory tested, and proven to emit a very low, or zero levels of VOCs. At Koala we use our own proprietary blend of foams that contains no heavy metals, no fire retardant chemicals, no phthalates, no formaldehyde, no ozone-deplete substances, no CFC’s, and almost zero emissions are produced in the production process! Koala actually outperforms all conventional competition, and exceeds Australasian & Global environmental regulations. 

What are the health ramifications of inhaling VOCs?

Short term negative effects of inhaling VOCs include headaches, respiratory problems, eye and nose irritation, allergic reactions, dizziness, fatigue and poor concentration. Long term effects may include damages to liver, kidneys and the central nervous system. Some VOCs are known to be carcinogenic.

A study published last year in the journal Science has found that the cumulative effect on air pollution from personal care products, pesticides and cleaning products now rivals that of motor vehicles.

How do you reduce VOCs in your home?

The whole list of harmful VOCs is too long to list here. They include the common offenders like benzene, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, acetone, and many others. It is probably impossible to completely get rid of VOCs in your home – some of them, for instance, are produced while cooking, and it’s pretty hard to not cook at home.

But the increasing awareness about VOCs is making it easier to reduce their negative effect on your indoor air quality. There are some concrete steps you can take to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals.

Choose a low-VOC flooring option. When choosing paints, go for natural paints, acrylic or water-based enamel paints with low- to zero- VOC levels. Avoid synthetic cleaning products, and get your home sparkling instead with soda, vinegar and lemon juice.

Open the windows whenever you can to let some fresh air in and avoid VOC build up. If you do need to use a product containing VOCs, make sure to ventilate the area thoroughly during and after.

Bring some greenery indoors to mitigate the harmful effect of toxic VOCs on your indoor air.

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