4 Things You Should Know About Volatile Organic Compounds

Despite our best efforts to maintain active lifestyles, the average American spends 87% of his life inside buildings. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) found inside are a true threat to your health. The EPA estimates that the presence of VOCs is two to five times greater indoors than outside. Here are four things you need to know about VOCs, so you can be proactive about purifying the air you breathe.

1. VOCs Are Chemicals That Vaporize Into the Air

VOCs are chemicals that turn to vapor at room temperature. Remember formaldehyde from high school science classes? Although formaldehyde is a liquid, it evaporates at room temperature, wafting into your nasal cavity. All VOCs exhibit similar behavior, but many have little or no smell. Carbon dioxide is one such compound. The good news is detection equipment can “sense” it for you. The best way to limit your exposure to VOCs is to familiarize yourself with the most common culprits.

2. VOCs Are All Around You

Many VOCs are common. These include liquids used during painting, such as paint strippers, solvents, and paint itself. Aerosol sprays, many cleansers, disinfectants, air fresheners, and moth repellents contain VOCs as well. Those working with hobby supplies--say certain glues or rubber cement--also can be exposed. Some VOCs, such as pesticides, fuels, and automotive products, are typically used outside but stored inside.

At the workplace, VOCs are found in copiers, printers, carbonless copy paper, and correction fluids like Wite-Out. Permanent markers and graphics and craft materials may also contain these chemicals.

3. VOCs Can Affect Your Health

Some of the health effects of VOCs are more obvious than others. These include the sensations you feel when over exposed to common chemicals: headaches and irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat. However, some of the more insipid issues are harder to perceive until the problem gets worse. Those exposed can experience damage to the liver, central nervous system, and kidneys. Some VOCs even cause cancer. Here are some physiological signs to look for:

  • Nose and throat discomfort
  • Conjunctival irritation
  • Allergic skin reaction
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Epistaxis
  • Dyspnea
  • Emesis

4. You Can Reduce Exposure to VOCs

The good news is you can take simple steps to protect yourself from VOCs. Look out for unpleasant smells and keep an eye out for materials with VOCs. Then address the problem by doing the following:

  • Increasing ventilation
  • Finding the source and remove it
  • Following manufacturer's directions when using household products
  • Throwing away unused containers
  • Cutting down on pesticides using integrated pest-management techniques
  • Following all label precautions

The other good news is not all VOCs are dangerous. And despite the seemingly ubiquitous nature of VOCs, exposure can be limited by taking the above precautions. Even though you may have no choice but to stay inside most of the day, with a little mindful planning, you have nothing to fear. If you notice any indication of poor indoor air quality, Old Coast Heating + Air Conditioning can help provide a ventilation solution to help make your home safer and more comfortable.

Kristi Cathey

Hi everyone! My name is Kristi Cathey and I’m glad you found your way to my blog. I am a mother of 3 beautiful angels. This blog was created in order to share my personal experiences in baby care and general health care for pregnant women. If you'd like to get in touch with me, please contact me by sending me an email via kristicathey.intelligentmother@gmail.com. Welcome to Intelligentmother.com

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