Understanding VOCs and Making the Right Choice for Your Green Building

Aerosol Can Cloud Spray

Products with VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, create concerns for green buildings because they are considered hazardous air pollutants that harm the environment and occupant health. Some products with VOCs react with the environment to create smog and others are associated with adverse health effects, such as headache and nausea.

As green building and green living continue to gain traction, there has been a rise in interest of VOC compliant products and low VOC products. It is important to understand the difference between the two, so you can make the right choices for your establishment.

What are VOCs?

VOCs are organic chemical compounds containing carbon that can evaporate in normal air conditions. They are what help to propel product into the air, and make it more fluid and workable. As products such as adhesives and sealants are applied, they cure or harden as the VOCs evaporate, releasing substances into the air.

Commonly used VOCs include acetone, benzene and toluene. These compounds can be found in a wide variety of products, including: gasoline, bathroom and tile cleaners, floor polishes and waxes, insecticides and air fresheners.

VOC Compliant vs.  Low VOC

VOCs are believed to contribute to low-level smog and ozone depletion, and as a result, their emissions are limited by the U.S. Clean Air Act. In addition, several states have put into action laws that restrict the use of certain VOCs. Currently, VOC restrictions are in the works in 16 states and pending in at least one additional state.

Adhesives and sealants labeled “VOC compliant” have been reformulated to comply with these laws.

VOC Compliant Products

  • Made with VOCs that are exempt from the restrictive laws
  • Exactly meet the requirements of the laws
  • Made with a lower total volume of VOCs
  • Have less of an impact upon the environment

VOC compliant products are acceptable to use for meeting government standards, unless you prefer to use green products in order to adhere to the latest green building standards.

Low VOC Products

  • Meet all regulations
  • Attempt to reduce the total VOC content, not just comply with regulations
  • Have the least negative impact on indoor air quality and are approved for use around people with respiratory sensitivities, like asthma
  • Better for the environment
  • Cost more, but conform to more rigid standards while upholding performance

If it is not clear whether a product is compliant, the percent of VOC can also be found on its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS/SDS), Physical and Chemical Properties.

Find the Right Product for You

How do you decide which type of VOC product is best for your building?  It is best to determine what your main concern is first – cost, air quality, or the level of greenness? VOC compliant products are lower in cost, obey the laws and reduce environmental impact. Low VOC products come at a higher cost, but go above and beyond compliance, and are better for the environment and indoor air quality.

There are several options available. We carry a variety of VOC compliant or reduced VOC items such as floor finishes, disinfectants, and air fresheners.

What matters to you when deciding what VOC product to buy?

To find out more, email Dale McGinty, CIMS – I.C.E., or visit EPA.gov.

Source: Difference between VOC compliant and low VOC adhesives and sealants

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Courtney Petesch

Courtney Petesch is the Marketing Specialist for HP Products, a distributor of 50,000 facility maintenance products throughout the Midwest. Courtney has over 5 years of experience managing e-commerce product content and merchandising, overseeing social media initiatives, executing email marketing campaigns and evaluating analytics.