VOCs or volatile organic compounds, are gases that can trigger allergic reactions, asthma and upper respiratory infections. The long-term effects are less certain and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, suspects some VOCs are carcinogens.
Many paints include VOC solvents but why? These solvents help in the application of paint application by making it easier for the paint to flow and level out. The VOCs evaporate into the air as paint dries. They mix with other chemicals, like nitrogen and sulfur, and form ground level Ozone (O3).
The federal government limits VOC content in paint tot 250 grams per liter (g/l) for flat finishes and 380 g/l for other finishes (low-luster, semigloss, etc.). Some manufacturers have set more stringent limits for their products – Benjamin Moore Aura, True Value Easy Care, and Glidden. While some of these paints performed poorly when they first came out, Consumer Reports says they now get high marks in their latest tests.
Besides house paints that emit VOCs, other products include building materials, pesticides, indoor furnishings, interior renovations, cleaning supplies and consumer products.