Boise, Idaho -August 8, 2009
One aspect of green buildings that many people do not understand is easy to explain. Everyone knows and many like that all too familiar new car smell but what most people do not know is that the smell itself is a warning. What your are smelling is called volatile organic compounds or VOC's.
We all know that the new car smell is fleeting and disappears after several weeks, unfortunately the VOC's do not disappear as quickly and you continue to breath these compounds for quite a long time.
So, your saying.. So What, Right? Well, if you knew what chemicals you are breathing you would not say that. Many of these chemicals are known toxins and some are known to cause cancer. Funny but we really never hear much about these chemicals but in fact we are all exposed to these chemicals every day we are inside a car, an office and in our homes and there is almost nothing you can do to prevent it or fix it.
The VOC's usually come from any manufactured source, things such as carpet, paint, plastics, fabrics, foam, rubber, glue, furniture and many building materials are all known sources of these compounds. Other sources include many regularly used cleaning chemicals and aerosols.
As we all know, most newer homes and offices are pretty well sealed and these contaminants that are released within our homes and offices do not dissipate very well. Many of these compounds cause sick building syndrome and this usually leads to allergic sensitization or asthmatic symptoms from many people.
One of the goals of building green is to reduce or eliminate these compounds from the indoor environment and one of the best things to come from the "green movement" is the manufacture of countless products that are proven to have significant reductions in these nasty chemicals. While they do not completely eliminate all the possible VOC's they do reduce them considerably.
Here are just a few of the most common chemicals found in our everyday lives...
Xylene (para and/or meta)
Limonene (Dipentene; 1-Methyl-4-(1- methylethyl)cyclohexene)
Benzene, 1-ethyl-4-methyl (4-Ethyltoluene)
So next time you are looking to paint your baby's room or carpet the living room think about what your buying, many of the everyday products we all buy will "off gas" these compounds for a long time after the "new smell" goes away. Look for products that are labled as low VOC products and breath easier everyday.