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What to Know About Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Asthma Attack

Most homeowners in Rincon, Georgia don’t give VOCs a single thought, yet they interact with them every day. They are in the air they breathe. VOCs stands for volatile organic compounds and some of them can have some significant health effects. You might be surprised to learn some of the sources of VOCs and how many are in your home. Worry not, however, as we are going to tell you what causes them, and how you can rid your home of VOCs for good.

What Are VOCs?

VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that are emitted as gases or vapors from burning fuel or using consumer products, such as solvents. They are made up of a variety of chemicals and can be found in everything from personal care products to building materials. Some VOCS are even created biologically by plants. They can be produced as a byproduct of cooking, cleaning, printing, smoking and using wood burners.

Common VOCs include acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene. Some are harmless to people and the environment, but some may be harmful to a person’s health if inhaled. They can lower air quality and trigger allergies or respiratory problems. Considering how much time we spend at home, it is certainly worth limiting your exposure as much as possible.

How Harmful Are Volatile Organic Compounds?

VOCs are typically found in higher concentrations indoors due to the enclosed nature of these spaces, and this is where health problems usually occur. If a person is sensitive to VOCs, they may experience short-term effects such as eye irritation, breathing difficulties, a running nose or sneezing, headaches, dizziness or an asthma attack.

A person can come into contact with VOCs from breathing them in or coming in skin contact with them by touching products that release VOCs. Long term exposure to VOCs can cause additional health problems like fatigue, nausea, organ damage and even cancer. Health risks are dependent on the concentration of VOCs and how often we breathe them in.

How To Avoid Exposure To VOCs

Exposure to VOCs can be minimized and even avoided but taking some precautionary steps. When paints or varnishes must be used, consult labels and choose low VOC emitting products. Smoking should not be allowed indoors or in areas where there is no airflow. Scented products such as deodorizers, plug-in air fresheners, and incense should be used as sparingly as possible. Ensuring a home has adequate ventilation goes a long way to reducing VOCs.

When buying or using paints, solvents or cleaners, only buy the amount you are planning to use. If you have to store them, the storage area should be as far away from the home as possible. Used tins or bottles that have contained products that emit VOCs should be removed from the house and safely disposed of. Your local municipality can advise on how to dispose of these items.

Voltile Organic Compounds and Children

Particular care must be taken to minimize VOC sources around children. Overexposure of VOCs to children can lead to recurring health issues such as hayfever and asthma. Children’s furniture and toys can be common sources of VOCs. Bedding and mattresses which are labeled as low VOC emissions should be chosen.

Children’s clothing that has been treated with chemicals to make them flame retardant can often emit VOCs. This risk can be minimized by selecting organic clothing. Plastic food storage containers are another source of VOCs, particularly polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride plastics. A safer alternative to these is polypropylene containers.

How To Check For VOCs In Your Home

Some VOCs can be detected by smell, but many cannot. VOCs are typically not monitored in residential environments but air quality monitoring equipment is available. A better, and more commonly used option is to have a professional check the indoor air quality of your home, discover the source of VOCs, and take measures to reduce their quantity.

You can rid your house of VOCs by arranging an appointment with one of our air quality experts. We have a variety of indoor air quality products that can purify your indoor air. Call McDevitt Air at 877-692-9402.

Image provided by Shutterstock

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