Chemicals and VOC Testing

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, an umbrella term for over 10,000 chemical compounds that may be found in your indoor air. Although these chemicals have the word “organic” (meaning carbon-based) in their name, don’t be fooled into thinking they are harmless. Some are known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances), including formaldehyde, benzene, and methylene chloride.

Health Effects of VOCs

VOCs can cause numerous health effects. The severity of symptoms related to VOC exposure depends on an individual’s sensitivity, how long they’ve been exposed to VOCs, and the concentration of the chemicals. VOCs can cause health concerns such as:

Kidney, liver and nerve damage can also occur, and VOCs are implicated in the development of cancer.

Common Household Sources of VOCs

When to Test Your Home for VOCs

Because VOCs are often present in building materials — and even in new furniture — the concentration of VOCs can be especially high after a renovation project. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can smell VOCs — it’s far more accurate to test for their presence.
It’s also smart to test your home for chemicals while preparing for the birth of a child. Because VOCs can act as endocrine disruptors, they impact women’s reproductive health and the development of both born and unborn children. But painting the nursery, buying new furniture and laying down new carpet or rugs adds VOCs to a newborn’s environment.

Even molds produce VOCs as they decompose materials around your home. A VOC test helps pinpoint the problem areas and serves as a benchmark for improvement.