In recent years a green wave has overtaken our stores: you can get environmentally friendly soap and disinfectants almost everywhere. You may believe they help keep your indoor air quality at a high level, and that they help reduce your exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or other bad chemicals, but it’s important to be informed beyond the marketing schtick.
VOCs are organic chemicals that enter our air at ordinary room temperatures. Don’t let the word ‘organic’ fool you – while they can be innocuous, other, more toxic, VOCs can have a huge effect on your health and your indoor air quality. One of the most common ways bad VOCs enter your environment and affect your indoor air quality are through the products you use to clean your home.
Now that spring cleaning is upon us, you may be looking to pull out the floor polishes and disinfectant sprays but your indoor air quality might be taking a lemon or pine scented hit. VOCs contained in these products can affect your indoor air quality and health as they are sprayed or evaporate on surfaces in your home. They can irritate your eyes, nose or throat or even cause long-term problems. If you have concerns about your indoor air quality, you may want to think about what your cleaning products are introducing to your indoor environment.
Just because your cleaning product says it is green does not mean it is not releasing VOCs or affecting your indoor air quality. Different agencies have different limits on the levels of VOCs products are allowed to release, so your indoor air quality can still be affected by these ‘green’ products. Something marked ‘no VOCs’ may contain no ozone-harming VOCs, but other VOCs in it could be affecting your indoor air quality and health.
Hard-to-understand measurements on labels do not always reflect the effect VOCs could be having on your indoor air quality either. It’s the emissions, not the content, of VOCs contained in the product that affects your indoor air quality. Many cleaning products that are considered low VOC are measured by their content, not emissions, so paying attention to the certifications they have will help your keep your indoor air quality high.
While a product might be low in VOCs, it may still have a great effect on indoor air quality through its mode of transmission. Aerosols have been known to cause health and indoor air quality problems for decades since the small particles atomize and enter our air during use and harmful chemical are often needed as accelerants.
Having more than one green certification on your products will ensure that your indoor air quality will remain safe since different certifiers focus on different environmental concerns. Research which certification might be right for your concerns – Greenguard, for example, has a focus on indoor air quality. Speaking to a professional about the many factors that affect your indoor air quality can help narrow the search and allay any concerns.
There is no requirement in Canada that says manufacturers must warn consumers against harmful long-term exposure to chemicals in their products, so having an awareness of how they can affect you and your indoor air quality should be an important part of your spring cleaning ritual.