Your nose is one indicator of the air quality in your home—the cleanliness of the air your baby breathes each day. Rule of thumb: if the aroma you smell is from a natural source (such as fresh air, flowers, a sliced lemon, essential oils, or homemade bread), breathe deep and enjoy. But if the aroma is from a manufactured product, whether it’s from chemically scented candles or that “new carpet smell,” it is likely to contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Volatile Organic Compounds
These VOCs are unavoidable in our modern lives; they are all around us. But knowing where they come from is a good step toward avoiding them in our own common household products, such as these:
- Paints and lacquers
- Paint strippers and other solvents
- Wood preservatives
- Aerosol sprays
- Cleansers and disinfectants
- Building materials and furnishings
- Office equipment, such as copiers and printers, and correction fluids
- Copy paper
- Graphics and craft/hobby supplies
- Permanent markers
- Photographic solutions
- Moth repellents
- Air fresheners
- Stored fuels and automotive products
- Dry-cleaned clothing
How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
To reduce the extent of indoor air pollution caused by these products, the EPA recommends the following:
- Increase ventilation in your home—open a window.
- Use household products according to manufacturers’ recommendations. Potentially hazardous products often have warnings aimed at reducing exposure.
- Safely dispose of partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals. Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step could help lower concentrations of volatile chemicals in your home.
- Buy limited quantities. If you use products only occasionally or seasonally, such as paints, paint strippers, and kerosene for space heaters or gasoline for lawn mowers, buy only as much as you will use right away.
In addition, I would add the suggestion that you replace products known to contain VOCs with green alternatives as specified throughout each chapter of this book.