Tags: Health Topics | vocs | chemicals | toxic | fumes

The Hidden Toxic Danger in Homes That Can Kill You

laundry detergent
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By    |   Friday, 27 December 2019 11:30 AM

Common products found in your home and office can harm your health immediately or after extended exposure. They emit harmful gases known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that can cause a range of health disorders from nausea to cancer and organ damage.

"They are emitted from a slew of items, so there's a pretty good chance that your home, new car — or even that shiny new airplane you took your last business trip in — are bathing you in a chemical cocktail," Dr. Ellen Kamhi, an expert in natural health solutions from Oyster Bay, New York, tells Newsmax.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that concentrations of VOCs are consistently up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. Common sources of VOCs are paint and paint supplies, aerosol sprays, wood preservatives, moth repellents, stored fuel, and automotive products.

"What is shocking, however, is that immediately after using certain products such as paint stripper, studies have shown that VOCs may be 1,000 times higher indoors than outdoor," notes Kamhi.

New materials, such as those used in new homes and cars, tend to outgas more VOCs than older materials as the gasses decrease over time.

"In fact, it is the heavy mixture of VOCs that gives new vehicles the characteristic new car smell," says Kamhi, adding that the automakers now try to limit the most potent VOC-emitting items, which means recent models may not have that smell consumers love. "Good for your health but potentially bad for business," says Kamhi.

Anne Steinemann, a professor of civil engineering and public affairs at the University of Washington, Seattle, tested 25 scented air fresheners, laundry detergents, soaps, and other common household items and found that even products labeled "green," "natural," or "organic" emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones. Some of these chemicals are classified as toxic by federal laws.

Unfortunately, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and laundry products, currently does not require manufacturers to disclose any ingredients on the labels, including fragrances in these products. The same is true for fragrances in personal care items, which are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration.

Steinemann says she receives hundreds of letters, phone calls, and emails from people who report a variety of respiratory, dermatological, and neurological problems they attribute to scented products.

"Children have seizures after exposure to dryer sheets," she says. "And adults pass out around air fresheners."

The health risks of VOC exposure or any chemical depend upon how much is in the air and how long and how often a person breathes it in, Dan Tranter, MPH (master of public health) and supervisor of the Indoor Air Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health, tells Newsmax.

"The health risks can vary from person to person, although several studies have shown that people who have asthma or who are chemically sensitive can have more severe reactions," he says.

The short-term health risks to high levels of VOCs include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, and the worsening of asthma symptoms. The long-term health risks include cancer, liver and kidney damage, as well as damage to the central nervous system.

Tranter says that the best time to do any household renovation is in early spring or late fall when you can open the windows and ventilate the home.

"I get calls from people who have just laid down carpeting mid-winter and complain about the smell and say they don't feel well. Well, that's after the fact, and although you can use air cleaners, they don't do a perfect job of eliminating the VOCs," he says.

"It's important that as a consumer, you ask questions about the levels of VOCs in the products you are using and try to get the answers from a third party, such as the EPA or CDC's websites and not the manufacturer," he says.

Other tips include:

  • Source control. Remove or reduce the number of products in your home that give off VOCs. Purchase only the amounts of chemicals you need and remove old chemicals from your home. Even those in sealed containers can leak and release VOCs into indoor air.
  • Ventilation and climate control. Increase ventilation by opening doors and windows, use fans, and maximize air brought in from outside. Keep both temperature and humidity as low as possible. Chemicals will off-gas more under warmer conditions with high humidity.
  • Use only natural cleaning supplies in your home.
  • Purchase new home or office products that contain low or no VOCs and buy environmentally preferred products.
  • Filter your home's air with a high-quality air filter.
  • Choose an environmentally friendly dry cleaner, like Greener Cleaners. Perchloroethylene, the chemical used most widely in dry cleaning, is a VOC known to cause cancer in animals.

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Common products found in your home and office can harm your health immediately or after extended exposure. They emit harmful gases known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that can cause a range of health disorders.
vocs, chemicals, toxic, fumes
Friday, 27 December 2019 11:30 AM
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