For a cleaning chemical to be certified by many of the most respected environmental and sustainability certification organisations such as Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), the product must have “no VOCs” or “few VOCs” when compared to similar cleaning chemicals used for the same or similar purpose.
VOCs refers to Volatile Organic Compounds
Reducing the number of VOCs released into the atmosphere has been one of the primary goals of these organizations when evaluating not only cleaning chemicals, but a wide array of products. The belief is that doing so helps protect human health as well as the environment.
However, a closer inspection reveals that while the goal is admirable and certainly necessary, these terms, no VOCs or few VOCs, may be misleading and not accomplishing their goal of protecting human health.
What are they?
But before exploring, let’s make sure we are all on the same page when it comes to VOCs. Volatile organic compounds are carbon-based chemicals. They are often found in traditional cleaning solutions, degreasers, paints, glues, air fresheners, wood preservatives, perfumes, and many more products we use daily, both in our personal lives and in our work.
When VOCs are emitted from certain solids or liquids, they enter the air as gases or vapors. Along with carbon, these vapors can contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, ethanol (found in glass cleaners), formaldehyde, terpenes (found in soaps and laundry detergents), bromine, sulfur, or nitrogen.
Risks associated to VOC’s?
Some of these ingredients are harmless, but others are known carcinogens or are likely to be carcinogenic. Very often, when people inhale these vapors, they may experience the following reactions:
Respiratory problems and wheezing
Poor memory and concentration
Sore throat and cough
These reactions are quite common among cleaning workers and others performing cleaning-related tasks such as those in healthcare, education, and the food service industry. This is because they may be using products containing VOCs throughout the day as part of their work routine.
What about the environment?
Further, according to the Australian State of the Environment 2016, which has helped advise the Australian Government on environmental and sustainability issues:
“Breathing low levels of VOCs for long periods of time may increase some people’s risk of health problems. Several studies suggest that exposure to VOCs may make symptoms worse in people who have asthma or are particularly sensitive to chemicals.”
But herein lies the problem. The problem is that the claim of low or no VOCs often means that there are no ozone-depleting VOCs in the product.
This means that while the product may not harm the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth, it still may release VOCs that could have a negative impact on indoor air quality. This can have health-risking repercussions for the users of these products as well as others in the indoor environment.
Further in today’s business environment in Australia and New Zealand, poor indoor air quality and the lack of corporate environmental responsibility can negatively impact how a business or organisation is viewed among the buying public.
Do we have an alternative?
Aware of this, what can organisations do to protect the health of their staff? According to one research study, the answer is Electrolysed Oxidising (EO) water, as found in eWater Systems products. According to this study,
Electrolysed oxidizing (EO) water has been regarded as a new sanitizer in recent years. Production of EO water needs only water and salt (sodium chloride). EO water has the following advantages over other traditional cleaning agents: effective disinfection, easy operation, relatively inexpensive, and environmentally friendly. It is not corrosive to skin, mucous membrane, or organic material. Electrolysed water has been tested and used as a disinfectant in the food industry and other applications. 1
As to VOCs, there are no volatile organic compounds produced or released when using eWater. The result is effective cleaning and disinfection, while at the same time, protecting the health of the user, all building users, as well as the environment.
We are here to provide you with accurate and timely sanitation guidance and solutions to protect your health and safety. Get in Touch for more information.
1. “Application of Electrolysed Water in the Food Industry;” Yu-Ru Huang et.al, published in the Journal of Food Control, August 2007