VOC stands for volatile organic compounds and is often referenced in conjunction with chemicals. These compounds are emitted from a chemical and dispersed into the air, contributing to indoor air quality and air pollution. Too high levels or extended exposure can result in adverse health effects in the long and short term.

But, chemical manufacturers stress that it is important to understand that not all VOCs are created equal. In fact, acceptable levels of VOC may differ between product class and even geographical location.

When shopping for chemicals, look for products that are labeled "low-emitting VOC formula." At the same time, exercise caution with products that tout "VOC-free" — since all chemicals emit even low levels of VOCs — and "low VOC-content level" — which might be lower, but might also still be unsafe.