Indoor Air Quality & Off-Gassing VOCs

The indoor air in a typical home is highly polluted with toxic chemicals constantly emitting from synthetic materials, glues, carpets, plastics and paints. These chemicals are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which over time may adversly affect brain function, sleep health, the respiratory system and immune system. The fact is, we don’t know how much damage these toxins are doing to our health as they build up in our systems over long periods of time, as no long term studies yet exist.

Although VOCs are sadly a reality of modern life given that we spend so much time living, sleeping and working indoors, but you can take steps towards creating a low to no VOC home, if you are willing to make a few simple changes. Identifying and avoiding the worst materials can make a difference to your indoor air quality, health and well being.

The Worst Offenders

  • Carpet + Carpet Underlay – Modern carpets are synthetic, using toxic fire retardants, dyes, and harmful glues. Carpet underlay is particularly toxic, being made from a cocktail of harmful chemical compounds and synthetics.
  • PVC – Dubbed the ‘poison plastic’, this is toxic to you and the environment. PVC is found in the home as those white pipes under you kitchen sink and in your bathroom. PVC is also becoming a popular and cheap choice for window frames. They emit dioxins, cadmium, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride and lead, among many other chemicals.
  • Mattresses – Toxic glues, polyethelyne foams, fire retardants, synthetic fabrics. The list goes on. Given the close proximity and time spent asleep, a toxic mattress can adversely affect your health the most.
  • Processed Wood Products – Conventional Plywood, MDF & Chipboard/Particle Board are all forms of processed wood products which use highly toxic glues to bind together.
  • Veneers and Laminates – Highly processed plastic based compounds attached with toxic glues, often found of furniture, cabinets, shelving, bench tops and flooring.
  • Furniture – Be aware that most furniture like sofas and bookshelves are built from cheap processed wood products which off-gas the harmful glues binding them together. Sofas can also be fire treated, and most contain polyurethane foams.
  • Paint – Most paints contain solvents, metals and harmful VOCs.

Alternative Natural Materials

  1. If your going to paint your walls, make sure you use a zero VOC paint.
  2. Replace your synthetic carpet with 100% natural wool. Wool is naturally fire resistant, meaning it doesn’t need to be treated with highly toxic fire retardants.
  3. Processed woods like MDF or Chipboard/Particle board can be replaced by compressed hemp board, hardwood, or similar alternatives. If your using plywood, you can opt for a zero VOC variety, just ask your supplier or approach manufactures and ask for plywood using natural glue.
  4. Replace laminated and veneer surfaces like bench tops, cupboards and flooring and furniture with natural products like stone or unprocessed timber.
  5. Don’t buy PVC window frames, blinds or other products containing this harmful material. If possible, you can replace exposed under sink piping with a galvanised steel alternative.
  6. Most importantly, replace your mattress with one made from non toxic all natural materials. Visit my homepage to find out more about natural mattresses and reviews.

It really comes down to using as many natural, unprocessed materials and products as possible!


Be sure to comment below if you know of any materials which should be added to this list.