How do I Reduce VOC Emissions?

Haven Esme

A VOC, or volatile organic compound, is emitted as gas from certain liquids or solids. Some of the most common products that contain VOCs are paints, finishes, dyes, and varnishes. VOCs come from a variety of chemicals and can have adverse health effects on the environment and people. VOCs cause air pollution and smog. They also play a role in the deterioration of the ozone layer. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to reduce VOC emissions.

Aerosol products typically contain VOCs.
Aerosol products typically contain VOCs.

Reducing VOC emissions requires forming healthy habits that will eliminate the presence of the chemical in the air and reduce chronic exposure. Individuals should avoid using aerosol consumer products to reduce VOC emissions. This would include air fresheners, air sprays, and deodorants. This is a fairly easy step to take because many of these products come in non-aerosol forms such as gels, roll-ons, or pumps.

Driving less and using public transportation can help reduce VOC emissions.
Driving less and using public transportation can help reduce VOC emissions.

Air fresheners should also be eliminated. There is mounting health evidence that spray and plug-in air fresheners are a major source of VOCs. Air fresheners emit ultra-fine particles and chemicals that are hazardous to the respiratory system and environment.

When buying paints, people should also be mindful of VOCs. Consumers can reduce VOC emissions by avoiding paints with labels that clearly indicate VOC limits are high. Switching to water-based paint is also useful. If a person finds that he or she must buy a VOC product, it should never be bought in bulk. Stored chemicals can emit VOCs even if the container or package is tightly sealed. These types of chemicals should also be placed as far away from living areas as possible.

Advocating the reduction of VOCs in car manufacturers is also essential. Automobile manufactures contribute large amounts of VOCs. Air pollution advocacy is one way to possibly cut down on these emissions. Driving less and using public transportation can also help.

Many governments around the world are taking action to reduce VOC emissions. For example, the Canadian Government and the Canadian Minister of the Environment announced in September 2009 that the country would being drafting regulations to reduce VOCs in the environment. In December 2009, world leaders united to fight climate change and the reduction of VOCs was also on the international agenda.

VOC emission reduction must occur on a large scale. Both manufacturers as well as every day people can take steps to reduce VOC emissions and limit the harm volatile organic compounds cause to the environment and climate.

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Discussion Comments


@nony - We’ve come a long way because everyone is more conscientious about these things. I try to be careful about paint, not only the kind of paint I buy but also how I dispose of it.

You should never clean your paint brush by dumping excess paint into the ground. This is a clear environmental hazard and also I think it’s illegal.

I buy only as much paint as I need for a given project, even if that means I have to make multiple trips to the store when I run out.


@SkyWhisperer - How badly do we really need to be worried about aerosols? Years ago there was a lot of concern about these sprays and pumps and their contribution to the ozone layer.

People were encouraged not to use the products if at all possible. However, I think since then the EPA has imposed strict regulations on how much VOC content can be put inside these products.

There is still some of that stuff in there but it’s a lot less than it used to be. Personally I think that there are greater threats to the ozone than hair spray, like carbon emissions from automobiles and power plants. But that’s just my opinion. I don’t have hard numbers to quantify the data.


@Charred - Many car manufacturers are already taking steps to improve reduce the VOC content in their exhaust gas emissions. So while I agree that an emissions check is good and necessary, I also believe that you’ll have cleaner exhausts with newer cars than with older models.

I’ve heard that some companies like Nissan are working to drastically reduce their carbon and VOC emissions. I would expect that other car manufacturers would follow suit. I think this is the inevitable trend as we continue to move towards an ecologically friendly technology.


If you want to take a big step to reduce carbon dioxide, get an emissions test for your automobile. Of course in most states these tests are mandatory, but in some states they are not.

In my state we don’t need them. Thus, you can drive around with a bad catalytic converter and you won’t get in trouble. You’ll pollute the air like crazy and you’ll reduce your fuel economy, but you won’t get a ticket.

Still, conscience should prevail in these matters, I think, if you care at all about the environment. Check your emissions and replace your catalytic converter if needed.

Yes, they’re not cheap, but you’ll be doing yourself – and everyone around you – a favor in the long haul.

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