What Are VOCs? — Information For Consumers
People frequently ask about the low levels of "volatile organic compounds" (VOCs) Hemp Shield Wood Finish and Deck Sealer™ contains. They want to know, "what are "volatile organic compounds"? And, "what could these chemicals do to my family, my pets, the environment — and me?"
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air. Formaldehyde, for example, with a boiling point of –19 ºC (–2 ºF), is well known for out-gassing from finishes and getting into the air. Formaldehyde attacks the mucous membranes, and can make a person irritated and uncomfortable.(1) After hurricane Katrina, hundreds of people living in brand new, FEMA supplied trailers developed headaches, rashes, and serious systemic ailments from formaldehyde emitted by finish materials in the trailers. Many other VOCs are also dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment. VOCs are typically not acutely toxic, but instead have compounding, long-term health effects. Studies also show that relative leukemia and lymphoma rates can increase through prolonged exposure to VOCs in the indoor environment.(2)
VOCs In Wood Finishes
A major source of man-made VOCs are solvents, especially from wood finishes and protective coatings. Large amounts of solvents are required to dissolve and spread the protective films that are found in most waterproofers except Hemp Shield™. Some typical solvents are mineral spirits, methanol, ethyl-toluene, aliphatic hydrocarbons, and acetone. Many wood protectants also use mildew, algae, and fungus retardants that contain formaldehyde.
When Hemp Shield Wood Finish and Deck Sealer™ was being developed, a primary goal was to greatly decrease, or completely eliminate, the presence of VOCs. We succeeded with the "Clear" color of Hemp Shield™, which has 0% (9g/l) VOCs. The other colors of Hemp Shield™ have extremely small amounts of diethylene glycol, which are used to suspend the colorant crystals.
In contrast, national brands like THOMPSON'S® WATER SEAL™ Deck & House Oil Stain, Semi-Transparent, Cedartone (24% naphtha, 24% aliphatic hydrocarbons, 7% mineral spirits) contain large amounts of VOCs.(3) In keeping with the Hemp Shield™ standard of, "low or no VOCs", the VOC content of all Hemp Shield™ products are below 5%. Also, the mildew, algae, and fungus retardants used in Hemp Shield™ contain 0% formaldehyde.