Is Off-Gassing Happening in My Home?

indoor air Nov 27, 2017

by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée


What is Off-gassing?

When you read about chemicals in everyday products, you’ll come across the term off-gassing.  

Off-gassing describes the release of chemicals into the air. We’re all familiar with the smell of a new-carpet, new-vehicle, and, sometimes, new-clothes. Love or hate it, you are detecting chemicals. 

But, not all off-gassing is smelly. Some chemicals don’t have an odor at all.

What Types of Chemicals Off-gas?

Chemicals that off-gas are called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs). However, VOCs and SVOCs are two large groups of chemicals that can be found in many everyday products and building products.

VOCs and SVOCs have historically been studied for its affects on the outdoor environment, like the ozone layer. But, some have been found to contribute to health conditions.(1) Examples include benzene, which may be linked to leukemia, breast cancer, and lymphatic cancer; and, methylene chloride, which may affect the nervous system.(2)

Chemicals recognized as threatening to human health are sometimes labeled “hazardous air pollutants,” or HAPs. HAPs have been known, or are suspected of having, serious health effects on people, such as damaging their immune system, and affecting the nervous system (including the brain), reproductive system, respiratory system, and more.(3) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of HAPs includes 187 chemicals, including the two (benzene and methylene chloride) mentioned above.(4) 

HAPs can be emitted from zero- or low-VOC products.(5)

Which Products Off-gas?

Common household products, such as crib mattresses, adult mattress, furniture, air fresheners, and cosmetics.

Building materials such as paint, composite wood flooring, carpet, paint thinners, and adhesives.

Textiles such as clothing, furniture fabrics, and curtains.

Furniture such as composite wood tables, foam cushions and cabinets.

These products, and more, have been found to off-gas VOC chemicals into the air and affect the indoor air quality.(6)

Could It Be Happening in My Home?

Yes. And it most likely is.  

There are over 80,000 chemicals that can be added to everyday products. While not all of those chemicals off-gas, there are many that do. The Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry (ATSDR) has a partial list of VOCs that includes 44 different chemicals.(7) The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found over 287 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood from newborn babies.(8)

Given the sheer number of conventional products that contain VOCs, it’s quite possible that you have – that we all have – products that off-gas toxins into our homes. The best way to reduce the amount of off-gassing: buy products with zero- or low- amounts of VOC chemicals.

For more information about zero- or low-VOC products, subscribe below. 



(1) (2) A-to-Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 2

(3) (5) (6) A-to-Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Parts 3 and 4 

(4) US EPA, 2017

(7)  ATSDR

(8) A-to-Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 1


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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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