Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, combine chemicals that vaporize easily and deliver gas pollutants into the home from various sources. Over 400 compounds in the VOC class have been identified in the home, and 250 can be found in carpeting.
VOCs are typically delivered into the air from synthetics and composite materials. The pollutant’s release usually happens during the construction, finishing, and furnishing of a home because of its host materials’ character.
Chemicals can also deliver VOCs in aerosol sprays, paint, high-concentration cleaning chemicals, cooking ovens, air fresheners, office facilities, or tobacco smoke.
There are no specified marks for VOCs since such a wide variety of mixtures are included by the term “VOC.” Sometimes even specific VOC health impacts are hard to describe because of the different possibilities that various VOCs may mix to form concentrations under those which are detectable.
However, these mixtures can sadly still negatively affect the homeowner. Unfortunately, the only information given for VOCs is quite general and applies mostly to high concentration levels.
At a high intensity, VOCs can act as central nervous system depressants, irritants, drugs, and carcinogens, possibly improving a person’s risk of acquiring cancer significantly.
VOC problems are widespread and published across North America and almost every advanced nation worldwide. These reports’ typical symptoms include headaches, drowsiness, eye irritation, rashes, and respiratory and sinus problems.
Exposure guidelines differ as to the type of product. However, because over 400 different compounds exist, no effort has been made to publish exposure guidelines.
One way to limit VOC pollution is by checking with manufacturers of goods concerning their VOC off-gassing potential.
Although you most likely won’t be able to defeat every source of VOCs in your home, bypassing products with high emissions probability will increase considerably lower any off-gassing in your home.
Plus product choice, here are a few helpful tips on avoiding the development of VOCs in the home:
1) Throw out your carpets. OK, joke, but remember to try to use the least amount of carpeting possible. Also, avoid products with a latex lining; perhaps use wool or cotton rugs.
2) Use pin strips instead of sticking the carpet to your floor.
3) Check for “low VOC” on the label and use water-based paint and sealants if painting something.
4) Try to use solid timber for cupboards and counters or use composite wood tape, the material with water-based/low toxicity sealant.
5) A steady mechanical ventilation system helps to exhaust indoor air and replace it with fresh outdoor air. The suggested ventilation rate is for one-third of the air in the home should be exchanged per hour.
If there are still VOCs, there is another method to reduce emissions. Have you heard about a “bake-out?”
This is a method when your home is heated to a high temperature after any repair and construction jobs. Temperatures are usually raised to approximately 100 F (38 C).
All windows are opened, and the air-conditioning system can run at complete capacity, repeating the process for two or three days. In theory, the large temperatures cause the VOCs to evaporate immediately, and the pollutants are released outside.
While some readings show that a “bake-out” can decrease VOC emissions by up to 75% quickly, others show that the bake-out causes the discharge of other chemicals which might have lived hidden indefinitely.
However, in these cases, VOC emission drops, but the method can take over a week to approach an acceptable VOC concentration level. Opinions are still split over whether a bake-out is the safest course of action to decrease VOC emissions.