It is important for consumers to understand that information on labels or other product literature with broad claims about environmental impact using terms such as “green” or “environmentally friendly” may or may not include some of the VOCs emitted from the product, and therefore may not otherwise consider their adverse health effects.
There are, however, national and international programs that certify and label products and materials based on their indoor air quality impacts such as various human health and comfort effects including odor, irritation, chronic toxicity, or carcinogenicity. Such programs are likely to include consideration of at least some of the VOCs of concern for indoor air. However, the norms and requirements currently used within the product labeling and certification industry for indoor products are not standardized. The government or third-party organization has not yet established the ground rules to craft consistent, protective standard test methods to rate and compare products and materials. This lack of standardization makes it difficult for the consumer to fully understand what the labels and certifications mean in most cases.
Some VOC labels or certification programs are based on the VOCs emitted from the product into the indoor environment and possible related health impacts. However, some are based on the content of VOCs that are regulated to control the formation of photochemical smog outdoors. Therefore VOC labels and certification programs may not properly assess all of the VOCs emitted from the product, including some chemical compounds that may be relevant for indoor air quality. This is especially true of most wet products, such as paints or adhesives that may be labeled as “low-VOC” or “zero VOC”.