Volatile Organic Compounds — Risk Factors For Asthma and Allergy
What Are Volatile Organic Compounds?
Compounds with high vapor pressure and low water solubility are called volatile organic compounds or VOCs. These compounds are emitted in the form of gases from certain liquids and solids. VOCs include a wide variety of chemicals that may have long or short-term adverse effects on health.
How Do You Get Exposed To Volatile Organic Compounds?
Various household products have organic compounds in their constituents. Paints, varnishes, cleaning materials, home furnishings and hobby products have organic components. These products can release organic chemicals while being used or to a small extent during storage.
The following household products are the sources of volatile organic compounds:
- Paints and solvents
- Preservatives of wood
- Aerosol sprays
- Cleaning and disinfecting products
- Air refresher
- Moth repellents
- Fuels (stored)
- Insecticides and pesticides
- Office supplies like printer, copier, and carbon paper
- Crafts and hobbies supply like glues, adhesives, markers, and solutions.
- Some window Furnishing Fabrics (Roller blinds, etc). Note: My Direct Blinds uses Greenguard Gold accredited fabrics, that are guaranteed to have low VOC emissions.
- Oil based painted Plantation Shutters. The Plantation Shutters sold by My Direct Blinds feature a water based paint, that does not have this issue.
According to the research, indoor contamination and concentration of volatile organic compounds are more than outdoor contamination. But, the outdoor contamination through air pollution, such as automobile exhaust gas, can not be ignored because they affect the indoor contamination too (1). Some outdoor sources include:
- Diesel emissions
- Oil and gas processing
- Industrial emissions
Volatile Organic Compounds And Physical Health
The research centered around the volatile organic compounds released with air fresheners was done in Japan. Air fresheners release terpenes like xylene and other VOCs like esters and aldehydes. When used indoors, these components can have adverse effects on the lungs, respiratory system, and sensory neuronal system of the body. The elements of air fresheners can also react with ozone and produce secondary pollutants like SOA, oxidative compounds, ultrafine particles, and formaldehyde. These pollutants affect the central nervous system and endocrine system. The health effects are manifested after a substantial period of time, so the formation of a link between the impacts and VOC exposure is delayed (2).
Another study on nail technicians proved that almost all the workers are subject to faster health deterioration due to continuous exposure to volatile organic compounds in their work environment (3).
Enough research supports that VOCs are harmful to health. The health hazards caused by volatile organic compounds are as follows:
- Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat
- Headache and nausea
- Hepatic, renal, and CNS damage
- VOCs also act as carcinogens causing cancers
- Asthma aggravation and allergy
How Would You Know If VOCs are Affecting Your Health?
Following the long-term exposure to volatile organic compounds, whether at your workplace or your home, you will start noticing the following symptoms:
- Eye irritation
- Nose and throat discomfort
- Allergic reactions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased cholinesterase levels
Remember that these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have a long-term VOC exposure affecting your health. But, you should be careful and consult a health professional.
Another essential thing to remember is that the severity of health deterioration depends on the type of compounds you are exposed to and the duration of that exposure. The immediate symptoms are headaches, memory impairment, visual disturbances, and dizziness.
If you want to know about organic chemical contaminants, click here: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulationsc
Volatile Organic Compounds – Asthma and Allergy
Asthma and allergy are public health concerns due to their high prevalence and morbidity (4). The prevalence of asthma is increasing with time, and although the environmental changes are considered the prime cause, the relevant environmental exposures are not yet clearly known (5).
Several studies have been undertaken to determine whether volatile organic compounds cause or aggravate asthma and allergy. Both conclusions have been seen; there are studies and research that support the hypothesis of VOC as a cause of asthma and allergy, and there are still other studies deny this. More research is required to form a definite conclusion about this subject.
D Norbak studied the relation of formaldhyde and carbondioxide with symptoms of asthma. The study concluded that formaldehyde does increase the symptoms of asthma and care myst be taken in carpeting and ventilation of the dwellings (6).
In Western Austrailia, a study was done on children aging from 6 months to three year old to see the association between volatile organic compound exposure and asthma symptoms. The results concluded that formaldehyde a volatile organic compound indeed increase the risk of asthma (7).
How Does Volatile Organic Compounds Cause Asthma And Allergy?
Different volatile organic compounds have different mechanism of action and effects on various system of the body. Some volatile compounds like formaldehyde and prostaglandin E1 act as an irritant and cause allergic reactions mediated by activation of type 1 hypersensitivity reaction. It can also lead to precipitation of asthma. Whereas acetaldehyde cause bronchoconstriction via histamine in astmatic people resulting in exacerbation of their symptoms (9). Already present bronchial hypersensitivity is required for acetaldehyde to cause bronchoconstriction. Asthmatic reactions caused by formaldehyde can be due to direct irritation as well as hypersensitivity (8). Hence, different volatile organic compounds have different ways to act on the body.
Prevention From Allergic and Asthmatic Effects of Volatile Organic Compounds:
The most important way to prevent yourself from harmful effects o VOCs is by reducing the exposure.
Steps To Reduce Exposure:
- Proper ventilation of your homes
- Read the instructions on the labels of all the products carefully before using.
- Do not store open containers of paints and varnishes.
- Formaldehyde is one of the most dangerous VOCs and it can be identified indoors. So, after identification, remove the source or apply sealant on exposed surfaces.
- Use other methods of pest management to reduce the use of pesticides.
- All household products should be used according to the manufacturers guidance.
- Throw away unused containers of the product. Buy the quantities required only. Do not buy in bulk to store.
- Do not mix household care products without expert guidance or if mentioned on label of the product.
- To reduce, benzene exposure by eliminating smoking within your home, and discarding extra paint supplies.
- Do not accept the dry cleaning products if they have a strong scent of products.
- Try a different dry cleaner if there is always smell in the clothes.
There is overwhelming proof present that volatile organic compounds cause some serious health problems including asthma and allergy in children and adults. Prevention is always better than treatment and management. Now is the time to replace your products with the ones that contain reduced volatile organic compounds. Make sure that you make your and your loved ones long-term physical health a priority because no one else will.
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Low VOC water based paint Plantation shutters
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- Chikara, H., Iwamoto, S., & Yoshimura, T. (2009). Nihon eiseigaku zasshi. Japanese journal of hygiene, 64(3), 683–688. https://doi.org/10.1265/jjh.64.683
2. Kim, S., Hong, S. H., Bong, C. K., & Cho, M. H. (2015). Characterization of air freshener emission: the potential health effects. The Journal of toxicological sciences, 40(5), 535–550. https://doi.org/10.2131/jts.40.535
3. Grešner, P., Świercz, R., Wąsowicz, W., & Gromadzińska, J. (2017). Faster health deterioration among nail technicians occupationally exposed to low levels of volatile organic compounds. International journal of occupational medicine and environmental health, 30(3), 469–483. https://doi.org/10.13075/ijomeh.1896.00854
4. Barnett, S. B., & Nurmagambetov, T. A. (2011). Costs of asthma in the United States: 2002-2007. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 127(1), 145–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2010.10.020
5. Gupta, R., Sheikh, A., Strachan, D. P., & Anderson, H. R. (2007, January 1). Time trends in allergic disorders in the UK. Thorax. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://thorax.bmj.com/content/62/1/91
6. Norbäck, D., Björnsson, E., Janson, C., Widström, J., & Boman, G. (1995, June 1). Asthmatic symptoms and volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide in dwellings. Occupational & Environmental Medicine. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://oem.bmj.com/content/52/6/388?ijkey=739da67c65c10e3500b77ec4e003d483aee4f140&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
7. Rumchev, K. B., Spickett, J. T., Bulsara, M. K., Phillips, M. R., & Stick, S. M. (2002, August 1). Domestic exposure to formaldehyde significantly increases the risk of asthma in young children. European Respiratory Society. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/20/2/403
8. Burge, P. S., Harries, M. G., Lam, W. K., O’Brien, I. M., & Patchett, P. A. (1985). Occupational asthma due to formaldehyde. Thorax, 40(4), 255–260. https://doi.org/10.1136/thx.40.4.255
9. Myou, S., Fujimura, M., Nishi, K., Ohka, T., & Matsuda, T. (1993). Aerosolized acetaldehyde induces histamine-mediated bronchoconstriction in asthmatics. The American review of respiratory disease, 148(4 Pt 1), 940–943. https://doi.org/10.1164/ajrccm/148.4_Pt_1.940