Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in household products and building materials that release harmful toxins as gas. Chemicals release into the environment in a process called “off-gassing” and sometimes emit an odor. Items with a strong scent usually present a higher health risk, though unscented items aren’t always safe either. VOCs can off-gas for a short time or for a few years. Using items with high levels of VOCs may increase the risk of exposure to high pollutant levels and a variety of short- and long-term health effects.
For more information on the health effects of volatile organic compounds, where they’re usually found in the home and chemical alternatives, read our resource.