Living in a Healthier Space with Sealants

Silicone sealants are convenient and cost-effective solutions for DIYers when it comes to filling a narrow gap, keeping out moisture or finishing a joint at home. However, there are a few points to consider when homeowners purchase sealants for their living spaces.

Like all other man-made chemicals, there are potential health risks to look out for when using sealants indoors. Apart from their adhesiveness, ease of application, weather and water resistance and flexibility, the VOC content of sealants is definitely something DIYers should pay attention to on product labels.

What is VOC?

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds and are chemicals emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. They are commonly found in products that build or maintain our homes e.g. paint, disinfectants, cleaning supplies, pesticides, air fresheners and aerosol sprays. The concentration of VOC can go up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors, hence choosing the right sealant for indoor use becomes particularly important. The lower the VOC content, the better. In some countries, there are regulations stipulating the VOC content. For example, in Hong Kong, the VOC content in sealants has to be less than 4% of its weight.

What are some potential health risks?

Some health effects associated with VOC exposure include:

  • – Eyes, nose and throat irritation
  • – Headache
  • – Nausea
  • – Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system (with chronic exposure)
  • – Cancer (with chronic exposure; applies to both animals and humans)

The risk of health effects depends on the concentration of VOC in the air you breathe, as well as frequency and duration of exposure.

Ways to reduce VOC exposure

Climate Control

  • – Increase ventilation or the amount of fresh air in your home
  • – Conduct renovation works at home when human traffic is low
  • – Maintain low or comfortable temperature and humidity because chemicals emit gases at higher conditions

Source Control

  • – Buy in quantities that you will use soon and follow label instructions
  • – Store unused chemicals where there is lower human traffic. 
  • – Reduce reliance on pesticides. Instead, try natural remedies such as lavender and peppermint spray to repel insects
  • – Check product labels before purchasing and opt for sealants with lower VOC concentrations

Visit the Dow Adhesive and Sealant Blog for more information and tips on applying sealants for your home.