No Fun in the Sun With Summer VOCs

Imagine being shut in, without air conditioning, without being able to open the windows to refresh the air, because the outdoor air is so full of VOCs as to be totally disabling

For some of us, this is a somewhat usual occurrence anyway, due to the prevalence of toxic laundry products blowing out of dryer vents everywhere, but during summer, things can get so much worse!

The heat makes many chemicals more volatile, and where do they off-gas? Into the air we breathe…

Here are just some of the things that affect summer air quality:

Roads (asphalt) and driveways – all those new roads require tons of toxic asphalt…

Roof repairs and replacements… More asphalt shingles,  tar and tar paper

Maintenance – caulking, painting, glues and solvents, etc

Grass cutting (yes, VOCs in cut grass) in addition to gas mower exhaust

Fragrant flowers and tree VOCs reacting with pollution

Burning wood and BBQs (lighter fluid, gas, propane) and sometimes some nasty processed food fumes too

Plastic toys and patio furniture, vinyl/PVC especially

Pesticides, more pesticides and fertilizers

Sun screens and insect repellants


Fragranced products are a huge contributor to  Smog

Painting of pregnant Mother Earth wearing a gas mask and  with a tree growing from her head. She is surrounded by toxic products and flames arise from below. Her left hand is outstretched as to stay stop.
By Mario Rosales Ramírez “Ponle un Alto al Calentamiento Global”

Painting of pregnant Mother Earth wearing a gas mask and  with a tree growing from her head. She is surrounded by toxic products and flames arise from below. Her left hand is outstretched as to stay stop. By Mario Rosales Ramírez “Ponle un Alto al Calentamiento Global”

More resources

Climate change is a symptom of pollution

Primer on Volatile Organic Compounds

Pollution Probe is pleased to present this primer on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) as an introduction to some of the toxic VOCs that we encounter in everyday life. As with other Pollution primers, The Primer on Volatile Organic Compounds has been designed as an educational resource for people who want to understand this source of pollution and then take action to protect themselves and their children.

Toxic Trespass (interview) / Chemical Trespass

Forgive us our (chemical) trespasses

Pollution and Health Issues

Air pollution does not respect political boundaries, whether provincial or national. Winds can transport pollutants long distances away from their source, adding to the levels of air pollution that are generated locally, and greatly increasing the intensity of our air quality concerns.

Air Pollution May Damage People’s Brains

Contaminants in the atmosphere appear to have harmful effects on neurodevelopment and cognitive function.

Thousands of pollution deaths worldwide linked to western consumers – study

Study shows extent to which US and western European demand for clothes, toys and mobile phones contributes to air pollution in developing countries

Cutting air pollution ‘can prevent deaths within weeks’

Asthma and heart attacks fall rapidly and babies born healthier, review finds

Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions

Air pollution evolution

“Transport-derived emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have decreased owing to stricter controls on air pollution.

This means that the relative importance of chemicals in pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products has increased.

McDonald et al. show that these volatile chemical products now contribute fully one-half of emitted VOCs in 33 industrialized cities (see the Perspective by Lewis). Thus, the focus of efforts to mitigate ozone formation and toxic chemical burdens need to be adjusted.”

“A detailed mass balance demonstrates that the use of volatile chemical products (VCPs)—including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products—now constitutes half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities.

The high fraction of VCP emissions is consistent with observed urban outdoor and indoor air measurements. We show that human exposure to carbonaceous aerosols of fossil origin is transitioning away from transportation-related sources and toward VCPs.

Existing U.S. regulations on VCPs emphasize mitigating ozone and air toxics, but they currently exempt many chemicals that lead to secondary organic aerosols.”

Fragrant consumer products a key source of ozone-forming pollution in New York City

… Coggon’s study built on another study published earlier this year in Environmental Science & Technology, which found volatile chemical products including paints, cleaners, and personal care products were responsible for 78% of the Manhattan VOC budget, versus just 22%for transportation.

Volatile chemical products are a category of VOCs that share two common characteristics. Key ingredients must evaporate in order for them to function, to carry scent for example, or to cause a residue to stick to a surface. These evaporative ingredients – including the fragrances featured in a wide array of products – are typically derived from fossil fuels.

VOCs are one of two critical constituents needed to produce ground-level ozone pollution and urban smog – nitrogen oxides (or NOx) being the other. In the air, sunlight can trigger VOCs to react with NOx to form ozone and particulate matter. Air quality regulations typically target both to control ozone pollution.

The growing body of work shows that emissions from volatile chemical products are ubiquitous, contributing up to half or more of the total anthropogenic VOC emissions in the U.S. and European cities that were investigated. Vehicle traffic dominates the remainder.

Personal care products contribute to a pollution ‘rush hour’

Emissions from products such as shampoo and perfume are comparable to the emissions from auto exhaust

“When people are out and about, they leave plumes of chemicals behind them — from both car tailpipes and the products they put on their skin and hair. In fact, emissions of siloxane, a common ingredient in shampoos, lotions, and deodorants, are comparable in magnitude to the emissions of major components of vehicle exhaust, such as benzene, from rush-hour traffic.”

International prevalence of chemical sensitivity, co-prevalences with asthma and autism, and effects from fragranced consumer products

Results found that, across the four countries, 19.9% of the population report chemical sensitivity, 7.4% report medically diagnosed MCS, 21.2% report either or both, and 32.2% report fragrance sensitivity.

In addition, 26.0% of the population report asthma/asthma-like conditions, of which 42.6% report chemical sensitivity and 57.8% fragrance sensitivity.

Also, 4.5% of the population report autism/ASDs, of which 60.6% report chemical sensitivity and 75.8% fragrance sensitivity.

Results also found that, for 44.1% of individuals with chemical sensitivity, the severity of health effects from fragranced products can be potentially disabling.

Results indicate that chemical sensitivity is widespread across the four countries, affecting over 61 million people, that vulnerable individuals such as those with asthma and autism are especially affected, and that fragranced consumer products can contribute to the adverse health, economic, and societal effects.

“Further, 28.6% of those with chemical sensitivity have lost workdays or a job, in the past year, due to exposure to fragranced products in the workplace.


Be fragrance-free!

It’s good for you! It’s good for me!


Where Does Clean Air Come From


We Share The Air

Shouldn’t the right to breathe clean air take precedence over the right to pollute


11 responses to “No Fun in the Sun With Summer VOCs

  1. Thank you for this article Linda. The summer is horrid here. Just the increase in tourism, sunscreens, perfumed people, washing hung out to dry, gardening equiptment running and extra traffic exhaust plus the extra electrical and wifi causing EHS simptoms to exaggerate, etc… It’s NO FUN as you say, especially for MCS sufferers who can’t ENJOY “a hot and sunny climate”!, nor “go to the beach” or swimming pools for that matter! It’s nice to know you realize this, most think “it must be great to live in Spain, like a never-ending holiday” they have no idea how far from the truth that is for someone suffering from severe MCS & EHS. You can’t imagine how I miss the trees, vegetation and Parks in Vancouver where YOU CAN ACTUALLY GO FOR WALKS OUTSIDE and breathe fresh air!!!!!
    You don’t know how fortunate you all are. Thanks for walking in our moccasins and sharing our suffering.
    Lots of luv and best wishes to you all, Therese.

  2. What’s with the bug you put on my posts? It is a bug isn’t it? Can I change that someway? Maybe some nice flowers? I don’t mean to be picky but it just looks wierd to me. How do I change it, or did you just add it on yourself?
    I’ve noticed others have different stamps or logos.

    • WordPress offers a few choices for people who don’t have wp accounts. I can try (if I can find the place where the settings are) to change it back to the one that looks a bit like a quilt if this type “bugs” you :-)

  3. Thanks Linda, the turquois tapestry looks nice and doesn’t “bug” me at all!
    I do appreciate you changing it for me, I don’t know how and lack the cognitive stamina to try and figure it out myself. I wish I didn’t suffer from this horrid cognital deficiency and the EHS so much and I could do some “learning on-line” about some other things that interest me, but the little time I can be on the PC (before the EHS makes me really sick) I have to use up researching my diseases, trying to get some recognition, funding for medical services, tests, treatment, etc. and any other communications that I need to attend to. At the moment all my energy goes into struggling just to survive this hell I’ve been thrown into. I can feel my metabolism is responding well to treatment (systematic, organic and metabolical support) and I’m slowly getting back some strenghth and energy but the MCS, EHS, Chronic fatigue and other environmental illnesses don’t get better unless I remain in my “environmental control” which I can’t afford to adapt completely or even afford this treatment that’s maintaining my health at the moment either. As you mentioned “heat” and sunrays (can’t use sunscreen or even breathe the fumes from afar) are fuel to incitants as they exagerate VOC’s.
    Even on my roof terrace where normally there is a pleasant breeze I expose myself to all types of VOC’s from everywhere (showering soaps, perfumes, laundry, exhausts,) as far away as down the street. My breathing mask suffocates me, gives me a rash and pimples, and the carbón smell makes me feel sick (this doesn’t happen when it’s not hot and sweaty). The population goes up between 50 and 75% if not 100% here in summer so does “Toxic Trespassing”! NO FUN IN THE SUN is seconded by me for sure!

    • You can only choose your picture if you get a gravatar account

      Otherwise wordpress offers 3 different types of presets that are automatically generated.

      Regarding the health challenges, I hear you! Been there, done that, and still doing that… I hope we all get relief soon, that toxic chemicals are banned from everyday use!

      Again, I’ve been affected by someone doing illegal midnight pesticide applications again (cosmetic pesticides are banned in this province, so people apply at night when neighbors are less likely to see them doing it). This was after a couple of weeks of extreme heat that started my backslide (I’d been doing much better before)

      My sense of smell is also damaged now, so I can’t always smell anything in the air, and I used to feel something was “off” if there were residues that would affect me in the air, but now I often don’t have any warnings and will just feel like crap for a week after the subtlest of clues…

      And the window and door seals have aged here (about 20 years old) so no longer offer the same protection they used to. Repairing or replacing them poses a huge challenge since almost all materials for the job are toxic in some way…

      When we’re really affected, we have so many challenges that most people can’t even begin to comprehend…

      Oh to live somewhere with year round clean air!

      • I hear you too! There is no ban or precautions taken here, no warnings, for fumigating or anyone spraying pesticides etc.
        There is this one trail that runs alongside a golf course where I could walk with my dog, completely wild in a ravine (the only outdorr exercise I could get). Well I was shocked to find a wáter company van there and a few guys spraying pesticides. They sprayed all the vegetation down the path and around the sewage wáter access areas (from the pipes that come from the residencial área to unload in a stream in the ravine that goes down to end in the sea, directly with no treatment whatsoever!), that a month later has all died, and only because they had to clean the overgrowth to access. Such stupid and ignorant Toxic Trespassing (by the time it has rained again, probably next year, and the pipes need tending, the overgrowth will be back and they will have to cut it down again anyway), it’s futile, I would say criminal, against life! Why don’t they see this even if not from a purely economical view of it being an unnecessary expense?
        Take care and defend your air ! Best wishes, Therese.

        • The pesticide companies have trained people well… It is usually far more effective to eradicate “weeds” by hand, and by doing so, ecosystem services are maintained, as well as the health of living beings… Cides kill, if not immediately, still slowly and indiscriminately…

          Hopefully people can learn and change.

          I wish you clean air, water, food, shelter and that good health returns!

  4. People have asked about the amazing image, and this is where it originated:

    It wasn’t easy to find as so many people have used it without credit. I tried to find a website or contact info for the artist, but couldn’t find more than that. It’s possible there may be something now (a couple of years later), but i haven’t looked.

    If anyone does find it, please share here.

  5. “Beyond their immediate effects, VOCs react with other molecules in the air, such as oxygen and nitrogen oxides, to generate ozone as well as fine particulate matter. (Those nitrogen oxides come, in large part, from vehicle exhaust.) High levels of fine particulate matter make it hard to breathe and contribute to chronic lung problems (SN: 9/30/17, p. 18). And while ozone high in the atmosphere helps shield Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, at ground level, it mixes with fine particulates to form breath-choking smog.”

    ~ Household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution

  6. Pingback: Two Tales: Temporarily Quarantined or Isolated Forever | Seriously "Sensitive" to Pollution

  7. …”Researchers found that when asphalt was exposed to hot summer conditions it resulted in a 300% increase in emissions of secondary organic aerosols (SOA), an air pollutant known to have significant impacts on public health.”

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