Protecting Your Kids from VOCs and Ozone
It's not hard to lower the levels of VOCs, and every bit makes a difference. Here are some tips.
- Choose safer cleaners. Powerful cleaners are a common source of VOCs. Consider gentler, unscented products. "Natural" isn't always better. "People might assume that pine and citrus cleaners are a good choice," says Lunder, "but they give off VOCs."
If you have carpets, don't use chemical carpet cleaners. You might worry about the dirt trapped in your kids' playroom carpet. But using a chemical carpet cleaner might only replace the dirt with something worse -- like powerful chemical solvents, similar to the ones used in dry cleaning.
Lunder recommends sticking with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter to catch irritants and allergens. If that's not enough, consider using a steam cleaning machine with water and no detergent.
- Ask about cleaning techniques at daycare or school. Your home is not the only place that your child will be exposed to VOCs, Lunder says. Think about possible exposure at daycare, preschool, or school. Ask the teachers how the facility is cleaned and what products they use. If they're not using gentle cleaners, see if a switch is possible -- and make sure that most of the cleaning is done after the kids are gone.
Home Improvement and Furnishings
- Be careful during renovations. Consider VOC and ozone exposure before you start renovating your home. While paint was once a common source of VOCs, it's a lot easier to find other options these days. Any paint store should stock low or no-VOC paint.
Avoid carpeting if you can. Think twice before replacing that carpet in the playroom. Carpets and the glue used to fix them to the floor are a common source of VOCs. Consider going without if you can. There are additional health advantages, since carpets can trap allergens and irritants.
Worried your floor looks too bare? "Think about getting a few rugs that are 100% natural fiber, like wool," says Ogden. "You really want rugs that you can wash."
- Balance energy efficiency with air quality. There's a downside to our current fixation with well-insulated, energy-efficient homes. "The tighter the home, the worse the ventilation," Lunder tells WebMD. "VOCs can get trapped inside." Before you caulk every window and door, consider the importance of ventilation, too.
- Say no to stain guards. When you're buying a new couch and have young and accident-prone kids in the house, the optional stain guard is tempting. But Lunder recommends going without it. The potent chemicals in stain guards can cause skin, airway, and eye irritation. Instead, choose a color that will hide a decade's worth of future juice spills.
- Choose genuine wood furniture. Buying furniture for your child's room? The prices on a bookcase or shelving unit might look appealing, but consider what that furniture is made of. Cheap particle board might emit VOCs for weeks or months. Your best bet is furniture that's made of solid hardwood. If not, use a low-VOC sealant on any furniture that might be giving off VOCs.