How Volatile Organic Compounds Can Affect IAQ in Your HomeWhile you might work hard to make sure your home is shipshape and clean, there’s a lot that you can’t see with the naked eye, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These toxic chemicals can be found in a variety of liquid and solid items that are common in homes.

As a result of a process called off-gassing, volatile organic compounds evaporate at room temperature, contaminating the air you and your family breathe.

Among the many items that may contain VOCS are paint, cleaning solvents, cooking oil, varnishes, pesticides, cosmetics, disinfectants, air fresheners and furniture. They also can be found in materials used in building your home. People can expose themselves to these chemicals while using them, and in some cases while they’re being stored.

In a study conducted in 1985, the U.S. EPA found that volatile organic compounds typically are concentrated indoors two to five times more than outside, and as much as 10 times more.

VOCs play a key role in poor indoor air quality, and that negative effect is aggravated by modern residential construction methods that stress airtight homes, with little opportunity for stale indoor air to mix with fresh outdoor air.

Repeat or long-term exposure to VOCs can increase a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer, central nervous system conditions, and liver or kidney damage. Acute exposure can irritate or sting the eyes, nose and throat, and cause headache, nausea or dizziness.

Take these steps to minimize the risk of exposure to volatile organic compounds:

  • Open doors and windows when weather allows.
  • Make sure your home has effective air filtration and mechanical ventilation. Consider a whole-house air cleaning system.
  • Store products containing VOCs in secure containers in closed closets or storerooms.
  • When shopping, look for products that don’t contain VOCs. Often the label will provide that information.
  • When possible, buy furniture that’s been in the showroom for a while, so more VOCs have off-gassed by the time the product comes into your home.

For advice on improving indoor air quality in your Grand Traverse County home, please contact us at Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about VOCs and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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