20 Off-Gassing Culprits

From on March 18, 2009 in Green Remodeling


There are literally thousands of materials that are known to emit gases over short or long periods of time. Luckily, all of these are unlikely to be in your house at any one time; still there are many household materials which have off-gassing properties. Off-gassing is a major detriment to indoor air quality in the home. The EPA found that levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside.

Needless to say a little knowledge about sources of off-gassing in the home comes in very useful. The most common and most hyped material is paint. Erasing the lead from paint does not make it completely healthy; there may still be plenty of VOCs involved that can cause serious problems. In addition to paint, here are 20 more off-gassing culprits, some of which may take you by surprise.

  1. Mattress (foam/batting)
  2. Stains/Varnishes
  3. Carpet
  4. Insulation
  5. Flooring materials (vinyl, glues, finishes, adhesives)
  6. Countertops
  7. Cabinets
  8. Plywood/Oriented Strand Board (OSB)/Particle Board
  9. Paint strippers (keep well sealed in storage)
  10. Cleaning supplies
  11. Copiers/Printers in the home office
  12. Wax
  13. Aerosol sprays
  14. Air fresheners
  15. Fuels (stored oil, gasoline, etc.)
  16. Dry-cleaned clothing
  17. Moth/Insect repellents
  18. Furniture (engineered wood components or tabletop finish)
  19. Packing foam (peanuts)
  20. Indoor swimming pools

Some symptoms attributed to off-gassing and poor indoor air quality are eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and more serious health effects such as liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage. The capacity of VOCs to cause health problems varies widely from substance to substance.

For more information on off-gassing, health effects, and how to reduce exposure in your home, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s site on Indoor Air Quality.

Other helpful links:

U.S. Green Building Council

Green Remodeling