Limit your use of VOC products

Avoid the use of PVC

Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transportation, applies low VOC adhesive with a caulking gun at a Habitat for Humanity project. Image credit: Wikimedia commons.

Polyyvinylchloride (PVC) releases dioxin, a known carcinogen, during its manufacturing and disposal phases.  PVC is commonly used in products such as plastic fencing, irrigation pipe, decking, and garden hoses.  It cannot be recycled and has a relatively short life span.  Homeowners should consider alternatives to PVC such as HDPE (high-density polyethylene) piping or wooden decking or fencing.

Choose no or low VOC products

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, refer to a large number of mostly petrochemical-derived substances that readily become a gas at room temperature. VOCs can be bad for the environment and harmful to human health. Among the hundreds of VOCs found in consumer products are formaldehyde, benzenes, toluene, styrene, xylenes, and chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, and methylene chloride. Landscape products that contain VOCs include primers, paints, stains, sealers, and other finishes, paint strippers, adhesives, caulks, and pesticides.

They have been linked to a variety of negative health effects including dizziness, irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, damage to the nervous system, and cancer.  When used outdoors, VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is the primary component of smog.

What products have no or low VOC content?

Image credit: Levi Siuzdak, Wikimedia commons

Purchase low and no VOC products. Most companies now produce effective and cost-competitive alternatives such as less toxic paints, stains, and varnishes that use water instead of petroleum-based solvents and reduce emissions.

Check product labels and literature for information on VOC content. Usually listed in grams per liter, it can range from 5 to 200. Using a product with the lowest VOC content will yield the lowest overall environmental and health risk. Paints that meet the Green Seal standard are certified lower than 50 g/l for flat finish or 100 g/l for non-flat finish.