What is VOC and what furniture construction has them?

When looking for a bed frame the term VOC may come up.  This stands for Volatile Organic Compound.  The “organic” part of VOC is not the same as the “organic” that you’re looking for in your organic certification on your food or bedding.  It is the chemistry designation of organic, meaning dealing with carbon containing chemicals. The “volatile” part of VOC means that it can enter the air where you get to breathe it in.  In other words it can evaporate easily.  This is often referred to as out gassing or off gassing when talking about indoor air quality.  So for VOC’s we are interested in carbon containing chemicals that can work their way into the air.  Let’s address some questions about VOC’s like where do they come from, how bad are they, what is the difference between low and zero VOC.


As far as furniture is concerned there are two main sources that VOC’s can come from: the material itself, and the finish used on the furniture.  For the material the main question is what type of wood was used in the construction?  Here the choices are a solid wood or engineered wood products, such as plywood and its relatives OSB, MDS, particle board, etc.  Engineered wood products are made from wood scraps and glue, and the glue is going to contain a plethora of VOC’s that will off gas (come out of the product into the air). The thing about VOC’s in engineered wood products is that the glue is present throughout the whole board and it can take a long time for the VOC’s to work their way out of the wood.

So if you are looking to reduce the level of VOC’s in your home you should look for solid wood construction as oppose to engineered wood products.