Build consumer confidence in your low-emission products
Now more than ever, consumers want products that contribute to healthy environments and don’t have hidden impacts on health. People understand that human health is paramount. Because of COVID-19, as people took refuge in their homes and reflected on their indoor environments, indoor air quality (IAQ) became a growing concern.
Retailers and brands are seeking out UL GREENGUARD Certified products to appeal to health- and environment-conscious consumers and gain market share — not only in the U.S. but globally.
As a global safety science leader, UL Solutions applies our recognized expertise in IAQ by empowering retailers and product manufacturers to demonstrate that their products have low chemical emissions. This helps them gain a competitive advantage by showing their commitment to health and sustainability.
All about VOC emissions
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are carbon-based chemicals (such as formaldehyde) that easily become vapors or gases. Mattresses, flooring and even wall paints give off VOCs. According to Scott Steady, global business development manager for product sustainability at UL Solutions, VOCs are responsible for those smells associated with new buildings and cars. Inside your house, you may be breathing anywhere from 50 to hundreds of different VOCs at any time.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. “We look at the air — it’s empty space, but there are hundreds of chemicals floating around at low levels in our space. Those chemicals are in every breath,” said Steady.
One of the primary sources of this pollution is furnishings and building materials, which can release hundreds of VOCs into the air. Breathing these pollutants is linked to a variety of health problems, including allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease, reproductive disorders and some forms of cancer.
If a product has been UL GREENGUARD Certified, it has been tested and scientifically proven to have low chemical emissions, said Steady. In other words, using UL GREENGUARD Certified products can help highlight your efforts to reduce VOCs in indoor environments and contribute to healthier and cleaner indoor air for families.
Testing consumer products for VOCs
A peek at the testing chambers used by UL Solutions is eye-opening. There are polished stainless-steel compartments — some as large as rooms — which are known as dynamic environmental chambers. They are temperature and humidity controlled, “so there’s no background level of VOCs,” Steady said. UL Solutions performs UL GREENGUARD Certification testing on a variety of products in these chambers, including furniture, laptops, humidifiers, flooring, insulation and more.
“We have global test laboratories with chambers ranging from about the size of a small oven up to a full room-size chamber for a crib or queen-size mattress,” Steady said. “We use strict standards regarding low chemical emissions, testing more than 11,000 chemicals."
As the product sits in the chamber, our experts measure the emissions. Steady explained, “Our chemical analysts can see between zero and 200 or 300 chemicals coming out of a product.”
Some items, such as paints and furniture, can sit in a chamber for up to two weeks. They off-gas the most chemicals on day one, and the levels decay over time, Steady said. After a few weeks, they reach a steady emissions rate.
Other items, such as electronics, stay in the chamber for only a day. “Electronics have some emissions before plug-in,” Steady said, “but they get hot as they operate. That heat generates the emissions, so we measure as they heat up.”
From start to finish, the certification process takes about one to six months, depending on the complexity of the product, explained Steady. Thousands of products a year go through some sort of testing. And once an item has UL GREENGUARD Certification, a new version of that item is retested each year.
Indoor air pollution and children's health
Children are especially at risk of the health effects of poor indoor air quality because their immune and neurological systems are still developing. In order to protect children's health, it is vital to limit their exposure to chemicals in homes, schools and other indoor environments.
UL GREENGUARD Certification means the product has met industry standards for low emissions, but anything designed for a child’s room or educational setting should meet even stricter standards. UL GREENGUARD Gold Certification means products “emit even lower levels and incorporate a really low level of formaldehyde emissions, specifically,” Steady said.
“Kids are more susceptible to indoor air quality problems. They breathe more per body weight, so they get a bigger dose of whatever’s in the air.”
How can consumers identify your UL GREENGUARD Certified products?
When a product or packaging displays a UL GREENGUARD Certification Mark, it indicates that the product has been tested and evaluated to meet stringent chemical emissions limits.
Consumers looking for GREENGUARD Certified products can use the UL Solutions Sustainable Products of Trust (SPOT) database. With over 80,000 UL GREENGUARD Certified products, SPOT is a reliable source of truth for architects and designers, public procurements, governmental authorities and consumers.
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Learn about GREENGUARD certification.
We help manufacturers create products that result in cleaner air.
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