Health Information

 

 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in many household products; examples of VOCs include acetone, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. Exposure to volatile organic compounds may cause symptoms such as headaches; nausea; and eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Products that may contain volatile organic compounds include:

  • New furniture and carpets.
  • Paints, paint strippers, and other solvents.
  • Wood preservatives, hobby supplies, and dry-cleaned clothing.
  • Aerosol sprays, cleansers, and disinfectants.
  • Moth repellents and air fresheners.

Volatile organic compounds may cause serious symptoms, such as loss of coordination, liver damage, and damage to the central nervous system. Some volatile organic compounds are suspected to cause cancer in humans and are known to cause cancer in animals.

The level and length of exposure to volatile organic compounds determine the health effects. Controlling exposure or only using household products with adequate fresh-air ventilation may prevent serious health effects.

Last Revised: September 23, 2011

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Rabinowitz, MD, MPH - Occupational and Environmental Medicine

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.