Reduce Indoor VOCs For Your Asthma Kids
Back before the final days of this election stole my brain, I wrote this post about Environmental Working Group’s recent roundtable on kids’ health and exposure to VOCs in the home. In it, I promised to write more about VOCs and asthma in particular.
I’ve divided this post into sections starting with a quick definition on VOCs, so you can skip around if you already know some of this.
What are Volatile Organic Compounds?
The key term here is *volatile,* and the Minnesota Department of Health has a nice, simple explanation:
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature. The term âorganicâ indicates that the compounds contain carbon.
Why are VOCs bad for my health?
Since VOCs evaporate easily, they get into the air quickly and you breathe them in. In the short term, breathing them in can make asthma and allergies worse, trigger acute flares, and even irritate the ear, nose, and throat in non-asthmatics.
Over the long term, exposure to VOCs may actually cause asthma in some people and some VOCs are known to cause cancer.
What contains VOCs?
Here’s where it gets scary. VOCs are in all kinds of household products that seem innocuous. Here’s a very, very short list:
– Commercial cleaners
– Air freshener
– New carpet/flooring
Made the switch to a natural, sustainable, and/or organic lifestyle yet? Got a kid with asthma?
Here’s your reason to green:
The EPA estimates the indoor VOC load in most homes is up to ten times higher than outside. Young children and people with respiratory problems like asthma have the highest risk of health problems from VOC exposure, and no safety standard for household VOCs exists.
So asthma kids and VOCs? Not the greatest mix.
Wait. So All VOCs Are Toxic?
Not necessarily. Some VOCs, like benzene, are known to cause cancer in humans, but others have no known side effects. The problem with VOCs in general for asthmatics (beyond toxicity) comes from their role in forming ground-level ozone, a known trigger.
How Can I Avoid VOCs?
Lots of ways, from giving up artificially scented candles to using vinegar and baking soda to clean your house instead of commercial products. Choosing organic, all-natural formulations of products will help, too.
It gets a little trickier with asthma because even natural fragrances and solutions that don’t contain VOCs can trigger asthma flares. Simmering orange peels for DIY home fragrance is a popular eco-solution, for example, but lots of asthmatics can’t tolerate citrus oils. Check out these tips and links, but remember this key concept: just because something is natural doesn’t mean it won’t trigger your kid’s asthma, too.