Watch Out for Volatile Organic Compounds
A broad class of gases, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), may be undermining your health. VOCs come from many products commonly used in homes that can cause minor to serious health side effects. Knowing what they are and avoiding, dissipating, or reducing their toxicity will improve your indoor air quality.
Anything made from hydrocarbons has the potential to emit VOCs, including:
- Common cleaning products.
- Home improvement products like paint, finishes, caulk, flooring, wallpaper, adhesives, new furniture, and some fabrics.
- Anything that contains perfumes, like candles, air fresheners and cosmetics.
- Some plastics.
- Dry cleaning.
- Vehicle exhaust.
Symptoms of VOC exposure vary by individual and the concentration of these gases indoors. Their effects may be brief or long lasting in the form of nerve damage or cancer. The best ways to reduce exposure is to:
- Eliminate them from your environment — Alternative low-VOC and no-VOC products are available for many of the home improvement products, as well as shower curtains and dry cleaned fabrics. Weather permitting, you can also off-gas some products containing VOCs outdoors before using them inside.
- Lower their concentrations — Ventilation is key to reducing the toxicity of volatile organic compounds. While it’s not practical to keep a window open year round, you can install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) that provides an energy-efficient and balanced way to ventilate your home. HRVs can work with or independently of your HVAC system.
- Neutralize them — Ultraviolet (UV) lights placed inside your home’s HVAC system will negate the harmful properties of VOCs. UV is a spectrum found in sunlight that alters the structure of many organic compounds that pass over it. Not only does a UV light render VOCs less damaging, it also lowers the population of mold spores, viruses and bacteria in your home’s air.
Taking steps to manage volatile organic compounds at home will have short- and long-term benefits for your health.
Our goal at Sobieski Services, Inc. is to help customers in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware learn more about energy and home comfort, especially HVAC and plumbing, to save money and live in healthier, more comfortable homes.