You know when you open something new and there is that “new” smell? Well, that “new” smell is not necessarily a good thing – it is off-gassing and it refers to the release of airborne particulates or chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air that you breathe.
Some of the most widely discussed VOCs are Formaldehyde, Polyurethane foam, Phthalates, Chloroform, and more. More than 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into the environment in the last 50 years, so the list goes on.
Some common household/office sources include:
Paints and painting supplies, including acrylics
Carpets, including area rugs
Craft or hobby supplies, including wood stains, glues, adhesives, paint strippers, varnishes
Copiers and printers
Burning wood, coal or natural gas
If you want to learn more about common household products and what is in them, The US Department of Health and Human Services publishes a list.
Off-gassing can be dangerous to your health and is a common cause of asthma and allergy symptoms. Some possible short-term health symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headaches, and vision problems. Potential more serious and long-term health problems include cancer and respiratory problems.
The smell from off-gassing generally dissipates after a few days or week, however, just because the smell is gone, doesn’t mean that the off-gassing has stopped.
Now that you know what off-gassing is, you probably want to know how to prevent it. Here are some key items to keep in mind:
Speak with an HVAC company to make sure that your indoor air quality is good, especially before home improvement or remodel.
Include plants in your home which help clean the air (about 1 plant per 100 sq. ft. is recommended).
Keep dust and dirt levels down by cleaning often with non-toxic cleaners. A HEPA filter vacuum can also help.
Wash hands often.
Follow manufacturer and waste disposal instructions.
Hardwood floors are generally better than carpet for indoor air quality.
Choose natural fibers that are fire resistant such as polyester, wood, hemp or cotton.
Know where your items are manufactured and that they adhere to strict environmental policies.