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VOCs and Car Care

What are VOCs?

VOC stands for volatile organic compound. These compounds are found in many everyday household products, including waxes, polishes, air fresheners, nail polish, paint, and glue. All of these products can release organic compounds into the air as you use them or even during storage, sometimes accompanied by a strong smell – sometimes not.

Why are VOCs a problem?

VOCs are known to pose health risks to humans and animals. Inhalation of VOCs causes a variety of symptoms, including nose and throat irritation, headache, allergic skin reaction, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

Potential long term health problems include damage to eyes, liver, kidneys, and nervous system. At high levels, VOCs are known to cause cancer in animals and are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Level and duration of exposure impact the extent and nature of the effects on one’s health.

How do VOCs affect the environment?

VOCs contribute to the formation of ozone, a reactive and unsafe gas that forms in the air. Ozone is known to affect the function of the lungs and is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a public health hazard. Ozone is present in higher levels in densely populated cities and industrial areas. However, since ozone is airborne, it has the potential of affecting everyone, even those that do not use products containing VOCs.

Because so many consumer products contain VOCs and the population is steadily increasing, the concentration of ozone in the air will continue to rise if steps are not taken to limit it.

What is being done to limit VOCs in products?

The state of California is at the forefront of a movement towards regulation of VOC content in consumer products. The state has implemented limits on VOC content for a wide variety of products, including many automotive products. Anyone wishing to sell these products in California must abide by the state’s VOC regulations.

In the next few years, many other states are expected to implement VOC regulations. The EPA is working towards tightening federal restrictions on VOCs. All this is done in the effort to reduce ozone and thereby make the air safer for everyone to breathe.