Eco-Chic - Off Gassing, No Thank You!


Jo Alcorn returns with another great Eco-Chic article.  This time she addresses off gassing.  Some great points about when buying new products for your home. 

So what is off gassing? Or other known as VOC’s, Volatile Organic Compounds . It refers to compounds which have significant vapour pressures which can affect the environment and human health; this includes both man-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. This silent stalker, is released continually into our air through building materials that we use, the paints, stains and varnishes that are used within our furniture, carpet, insulations, hard flooring, kitchen cabinets, countertops and more which we have surrounding us every second of the day.  Off gassing is the leading cause for people who suffer with Allergies, Chronic sinusitis, Asthma or respiratory problems. Off gassing causes symptoms ranging from running nose, congestion, coughing, watery and red eyes, skin irritations, hives, rashes and more.

Think before you install that wall to wall carpet!
What time of year is it? Xan you air out the house?  How high is the VOC?
The two most identified types of off gassing is the “new car” or “new carpet” smell! Now I used the reference “hot boxing” when explaining this subject to my students, which really seemed to hit home for them. But if we think about it, we sit in an air tight car with all the windows up and inhale a chemical that is highly toxic for months on end. When the smell is gone, we don’t have the same sensation as we did when we first bought the car because that chemical smell is gone.  Some people will feed that addiction with the new car air freshener or sprays, while others long to have that smell once again. If you think of it we have all gotten high off of the new car smell, enjoying it and have craved more. Does that not seem familiar to a drug addition?  Marketers have even used this addiction within their car commercials or advertisements. Now when it comes to the new carpet smell, carpet companies are bit more respectful to the toxins that are released and suggest that you keep your windows open and try to air out your home as long as possible due to the VOC’s. How many people have actually taken that advice, is another story. How many of us put up with that new plastic smell when a toy or bag is opened? How many of us put up with cleaning chemical smell on a daily bases?
Think about the products used in the bedroom (from furniture to flooring) ,
 where we spend 1/3 of our day breathing in and out!

One of the leading chemicals with high VOC’s, found in almost everything we own is, formaldehyde.  Companies have even turned to advertising advising their product is “formaldehyde free” which should tell you right there, this chemical probably isn’t the safest thing for your lungs to be breathing in. It has not been official noted that this chemical is the leading cause to almost all of our health problems now a days, but it has been linked to many respiration disorders and diseases. The VOC’s produced by this very scary chemical, formaldehyde, can last for years and years.  For those pieces that you cannot replace there are ways to help protect yourself from this offending chemical. Make sure your have regular air movement throughout. Off gassing is at a higher rate when humidity and temperatures are high.
In the kitchen, cabinets, flooring, countertops, and furnishings
 can all contribute to a very hgh VOC,

We must protect ourselves and our loved ones, so beware of what chemicals are used with your products before bringing them into your homes. You pay for what you get and for the last decade the movement was we want it NOW, which meant materials that were used, were inexpensive and chemically processed to be able to create a product quick and dirt cheap. Hence the chemical formaldehyde was born, and used within almost every soft and hard material out there; including the clothes and fabric we wrap our children in. Make sure you are a smart consumer when it comes to protecting your air space within your homes. Buy formaldehyde free, glues, paints, stains, and products to lower the VOC’s in your home. Stick to water base solutions and read the label to make sure formaldehyde is not used within. It’s a scary chemical and I encourage everyone to do their own research on this in-depth topic, because it truly is frightening to learn what it does to our bodies.  

I know there will be more to come on this topic.

Stay Green and until next time,

Want to know more about Jo Alcorn, you can find her at
 All Images from House Beautiful,

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