Studies have found that concentrations of volatile organic compounds are two to 10 times higher indoors than outside. But what exactly are volatile organic compounds? Are they harmful? And how do you keep them to a minimum for cleaner indoor air quality? Here are the answers you seek.
What Are Volatile Organic Compounds?
Volatile organic compounds, commonly called VOCs, are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate at room temperature and form ground-level ozone. Some VOCs have a detectable odor, while others have no scent. You likely come in contact with thousands of volatile organic compounds every day because they are found in common objects, such as:
- Carpet and upholstery
- Paint and varnish
- Air fresheners
- Disinfecting chemicals
Why Are VOCs a Concern?
The symptoms of VOC exposure vary based on how much in is the air, how long you are exposed to it and how often you breathe it in. Short-term symptoms of exposure to high levels of VOCs include:
- Respiratory irritation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Worsened asthma symptoms
Long-term exposure to high concentrations of VOCs increases your risk of:
- Kidney and liver disease
- Damage to your central nervous system
How to Get Rid of VOCs
Many VOC-emitting products only add volatile organic compounds to the air for a short period of time. That means old paint, carpet and upholstery often give off no VOCs at all anymore. Still, you should take these steps to protect your family and minimize your exposure:
- Store unused chemicals outside your home.
- Choose solid wood products with low-emitting finishes.
- Buy environmentally preferable products that contain low or no VOCs.
- Look for no-VOC paint (which can actually still contain up to five grams of VOCs per liter).
- Open windows when painting or disinfecting. In bad weather, turn on exhaust fans toincrease ventilation.
In the end, the most effective way to reduce volatile organic compounds in your home is to remove VOC-emitting products, choose those that give off few VOCs and increase ventilation to dilute VOC levels. For more information about breathing easy inside, please contact Pacific Aire. We serve Ventura and Santa Barbara residents.
Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net