Low-emitting or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are reduced concentrations of chemical contaminants in manufactured goods that, at significant levels, can be harmful to human health and the environment. VOC emissions can be released from household products like paints, solvents, carpets, wood composites, and cleaning products, as well as from building materials and furniture.
While there are no federally enforceable VOC standards outside of industrial settings that define thresholds for low VOC emissions, there are many certifications that establish their own standards.
In order to earn credit for LEED, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) requires that at least 90 percent of a product meets the VOC standards specified by various programs. For example, paints and coatings, flooring, insulations, adhesives, and sealants must be in compliance with CDPH/CHPS 01350, and composite wood products must meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) specifications for ultra-low-emitting or no-added formaldehyde resins.
Other recognized low-VOC standards include Green Label Plus (for carpets, cushions, and adhesives), BIFMA (for furniture), UL GreenGuard (for indoor air quality), ASHRAE (for heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration), and FloorScore (for flooring).
Materials with naturally low VOC emissions include stone, ceramic, glass, concrete, brick, plated or anodized metals, and unfinished/untreated solid wood—though this may not be the case if these contain any integral organic-based surface coatings, binders, or sealants.
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