VOC's: Volatile Organic Compounds
What are they?
Volatile Organic Compounds turn out to be a very broad array of chemicals, most of which have little to no researched health impacts. There are a few that do, however, and those are the ones we're worried about in the least. The others we're avoiding based on the precautionary approach-- that is, we're not sure that there will be harm from something/some process, but if we avoid that thing/process altogether, then we know there won't be harm (problem solved!).
Ok, so again, what are we talking about here:
The one we hear most about is formaldehyde-- the stuff in which they used to embalm the Egyptian mummies (and still used as a preservative today), and the same stuff which aspartame sweetener turns into in our stomachs (10% turns to formaldehyde). Those in the industry sometimes call it HCHO, after its chemical formula, but I prefer its anagram, “COHH”, since it’s a bit more onomatopoetic, as you will soon see.
Health impacts of COHH:
Formaldehyde is a nasty little bugger for human health. Exposure to it in significant concentrations generally produces irritation of the eyes and throat, coughing, difficulty breathing, etc. To sensitive populations, lower concentrations are known to incite asthma episodes, allergic reactions, rashes, and fatigue. Lastly, it has been shown to be a carcinogen in proxy humans, i.e. mice.
There are myriad other indoor air pollutants that have documented health impacts (and by myriad, I mean more like 90).
These are documented here: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/air/allrels.html