VOC = Volatile Organic Compound – molecules that contain at least one carbon and one hydrogen atom (i.e. organic compounds) that vaporize easily at room temperature.
VOCs are found in many household products and personal care items and collectively can emit a voluminous number of VOCs into the air but for today, we are only going to address the topic of air freshener type products.
Air fresheners come in all types of forms: sprays, solids, gels, oils, disks, diffusers, cartridges, and some candles. While their intent seems innocent enough in creating a pleasant odor to create an enjoyable indoor space, the reality is these products produce and discharge a wide range of potentially hazardous air pollutants that can have an adverse effect on indoor air quality and the health of you and your family.
The ingredients in air fresheners are largely unknown and rarely disclosed to the public. The fragrance formulations are known to be “trade secrets” and an exceedingly small percentage of volatile ingredients are listed on labels or material safety data sheets. The public is kept in the dark about these VOCs making it extremely difficult to take a proactive step in their health and know the potential risks. In the respect of indoor air quality, air fresheners have been shown to be a major source of VOCs within homes or buildings. Specific health effects and problems they can cause have been noted as migraine headaches, nose bleeds, loss of smell, asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, and infant issues. Furthermore, it has been studied and determined that some air freshener chemicals (VOCs such as acetaldehyde, SVOCs such as phthalates, and ultrafine particles) emitted from air fresheners have been associated with adverse effects to the neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, immune and endocrine systems as well as cancer.
In many studies done in the US, air fresheners were found to emit over 100 different chemicals including VOCs. Specifically looking at these VOCs, approximately one-fourth are placed in a class as potentially toxic or hazardous under one or more federal laws in the United States. All tested were found to release at least one or more of these compounds.
The air fresheners that are labeled as “green” or “organic” are also lacking in their information conveyed to the consumer. Only ten percent of these tested showed the volatile ingredients listed and were described by neutral terms such as essential oils, fragrance, organic fragrance/perfume, or quality ingredients. The only word that is required to be listed on the label is fragrance – the actual composition of the fragrance is again, a “trade secret”. The public needs to become more aware of what “green” or “organic” means and a complete list of the ingredients used and what potential hazards they could have. Just by seeing the word “green” or “organic” when it comes to air fresheners does not mean it comes without risks. Public education and awareness are needed for better understanding.
Another important point to know is that even once an air freshener is removed or discontinued from the home or other building, the danger may not be gone immediately. A little-known fact is that these compounds can be absorbed into walls, furnishings and surfaces and still be found in the indoor air that we breathe still causing the potential harmful effects. More research is needed in this area, but experts believe this to be a lingering concern.
AIR SAMPLING TESTS
In addition to a Mold Assessment, Coastal Air Assessments is also able to test for other airborne particulates that are known to negatively impact indoor air quality.
We can conduct the following testing services:
- Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) Testing
- Silica Testing
- Allergen Testing (for allergens other than mold)
The air samples that are collected will be tested at a laboratory for these specific contaminants. You will then be presented with a full analysis of the laboratory findings, typically within 24 hours. This makes us different from many others, whose test results take far longer to be delivered.