Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are far more complex than many in the professional cleaning and building industries realize.Because of this, Charlotte Products/Enviro-Solutions, manufacturers of professional cleaning and green cleaning products, addresses several myths and misunderstandings about VOCs.
All VOCs are harmful: In general, all VOCs are harmful. Individually, some VOCs are more harmful than others; some have little or no known effect. A VOC's impact on health may be impacted by the level of exposure, the length of exposure, and whether the exposure happened indoors or outdoors.
All VOCs are man-made: While many of the most problematic VOCs are man-made, many VOCs are also emitted from the natural environment. These emissions typically come from the leaves of some plants and levels can vary depending on temperature, sunlight, and a variety of other factors.
Zero-VOC products have no VOCs: This is "true-ish." If a product has only a "trace amount" of VOCs, it may be able to claim it has none. Manufacturers, including cleaning manufacturers, must be careful using this zero-VOC claim. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken action against some paint manufacturers inaccurately making this claim.
Precautions Nonetheless
While some VOCs may have little or no effect on human health, the reality is that many can negatively affect health, especially for children and elders. Always take the following steps to help minimize VOC exposure:
    • Always make sure there is adequate ventilation when using building and cleaning products.
    • Do not store chemicals and other products with VOCs in containers, which can release VOCs.
    • Read the product's label or material safety data sheet (MSDS) to see if VOC levels are mentioned. Typically, a green-certified product has fewer VOCs than a conventional product.
    • Follow dilution instructions carefully.

"Finally, cleaning professionals should advise building owners and managers that VOCs are found in a wide variety of products," says Paul M. Wildenberg, Vice President of Sales North America for Charlotte Products/Enviro-Solutions. "Before selecting building or cleaning products, the amount of VOCs should be considered."