by Custom Made
What is Off-Gassing?
Off-gassing (also known as out-gassing) refers to the release of airborne particulates or chemicals—dubbed volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—from common household products. Potential sources of off-gassing range from construction materials to carpeting, cabinetry, furniture, paint, and any number of household goods. Some of the most common chemicals off-gassed from household items include formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, and toluene. While off-gassing can be easily identified by so-called “new car” and “new carpet” smells, it can also be odorless.
Sound scary? Unfortunately, we’re just getting started. More than 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into the environment in the last 50 years, and the majority of them haven’t been studied for their effects on people or animals. But that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from incorporating these chemicals into their production processes.
While the effects of off-gassing are still being studied, what we do know is that many of the chemicals can cause allergic reactions and other health problems—including congestion, coughing, skin irritation, asthma attacks, and fatigue, as well as leukemia, lymphomas, or cognitive decline. Health effects depend on the particular chemical(s) involved, the concentration of VOCs in the home, and how long and how often a person is exposed.
Look around your home: You’re all but guaranteed to find any number of VOC-emitting items. Some of the most common sources of off-gassing include:
Furniture: Mattresses, couches, chairs, and other furniture are all common sources of VOCs.
Carpets: That “new carpet smell” is not a good thing. Carpets can emit VOCs for five or more years (though off-gassing decreases after the first few months).
Particleboard and plywood: These materials are present in virtually any home, whether in construction materials or furniture. Unfortunately, the glue that holds them together almost always contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
Household cleaners: Despite containing an enormous number of toxic contaminants and VOCs, the majority of cleaning products are not assessed for safety. Soaps, glass cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, polishes, and detergents are all common sources of VOCs.
Dryer sheets: They may smell nice, but these sheets off-gas a whole host of chemicals. In fact, the Material Safety Data Sheet warns against dryer sheets, citing them as a cause of eye and skin irritation.
Nail polish remover: Your average bottle of nail polish remover likely contains acetone, a nasty and harmful chemical. Breathing acetone can cause issues ranging from irritation of the nose, throat, lungs, or eyes to headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
Other household goods: Toys, tennis balls, paints, wallpaper, adhesives, cabinetry, bedding, cars, varnishes, floor coverings, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, vinyl, plastics, cosmetics, air fresheners, moth balls, and newspapers all frequently off-gas harmful chemicals.
Continue reading to learn How to Reduce Exposure