What Are VOCs?

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Yet another acronym, but one use to know, especially for those interested in the air quality they are breathing. Certain solids and liquids emit Volatile Organic Compounds as gases. Some of which can be harmful to you or your pets. Interesting to note that a study on VOCs found that levels within the home can be significantly higher than outside 2-5 times higher! 

Sources Of VOCs In Your Homes

Building materials such as foam, paints & paint strippers, varnishes, caulks, adhesives, carpet, vinyl flooring, composite wood products, upholstery, fuel oil and gasoline.

Personal & Home Care Products include cleaning products, pesticides, deodorants, air fresheners, perfumes, cosmetics, incense, and diffusers.

Activities In & Around Your Home such as smoking, candles, photocopiers, correction fluids, carbonless copy paper,

cooking, hobbies especially when using glues, adhesives and permanent markets, burning wood, dry cleaning.

While using some of these products, you can be exposed to high levels of pollutants, which can stick around for longer than you would like.

Health Issues Associated With VOCs

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation.
  • Breathing problems, exacerbation of long-standing problems like COPD & asthma.
  • Headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, dizziness, and potentially memory loss or visual impairment.
  • Damage can be caused to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
  • Some can cause cancer in animals and humans.

The message is that most health effects caused by VOCs are temporary and improve once the source of the pollution is found and removed. However, studies in Germany in homes indicate that this can take 2 – 3-months.

What You Can Do To Improve The Air Quality In Your Home

Ensure Adequate Ventilation

In well-insulated homes with little ventilation, VOCs can accumulate quickly. When using any of the above products, particularly the chemicals like paint, paint stripper and varnishes, ensure windows are open, allowing fresh air in. An extractor fan in the kitchen can also help improve the air quality in your home. There are also heat and energy recovery ventilators that remove stale air from within the home and replace it with fresh air.

Store Items Properly & Safely

Paint thinners, paints, pesticides, fuel and similar materials, including equipment like chain saws or leaf-blowers, should be kept in outside storage, one with a vent or exhaust fan installed if possible. Likewise, don’t keep storing old paint or half-used bottles of strippers and chemical cleaners – get in touch with your nearest waste disposal to find out how to dispose of them safely within your area.

Use Natural Products

Making or buying products from natural sources can reduce the amount of VOCs in your home. Try,

  • Make potpourri from herbs and flowers.
  • Simmer cinnamon sticks and other spices, oranges & lemons to create a welcoming aroma without the VOCs from air fresheners – use a slow cooker, cheap and long-lasting smell.
  • You can use natural essential oils, but some people can be allergic, so be careful.
  • Lemon and olive oil make good furniture polish.
  • Putting Tea Tree oil in water helps clean mould and mildew from bathrooms.
  • Regular cleaning helps reduce, even remove, VOCs contaminants.

Bring The Green Inside

Many houseplants absorb VOCs. Try decorating your house with plants is a good way forward.

Some suitable plants include,

  • Aloe
  • Spider plants
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Chinese evergreens
  • Peace lilies

Speak To The People Who Know What To Do

As you can see, there are some things you can do to help yourself improve the air quality in your home. However, the best advice is to talk to the specialists to learn how to monitor your air quality and keep harmful pollutants at bay.