VOCs and Your Home: What to Know

VOCs and Your Home: What to KnowVOCs usually aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of pollution. External sources such as automobile exhaust and industrial emissions are more commonly recognized. However, VOCs— short for Volatile Organic Compounds—are substances we bring into our home as ingredients in products we find useful.

Research has revealed that consistent exposure to these lesser-known compounds may pose a health threat, just like more notorious pollutants.

What are VOCs?

Volatile organic compounds are common ingredients in paints, cleaning solutions, adhesives, pesticides and other everyday home products. They’re also incorporated in building materials like flooring, paneling and insulation. While formulated as a liquid ingredient, in actual usage a VOC vaporizes and becomes an airborne gas that is inhaled. The most well-known volatile organic compound is formaldehyde, but acetone, benzene and ethanol also make up the Top 10 and are officially classified at Hazardous Air Pollutants by the EPA.

What’s the Threat?

In pursuit of maximum energy efficiency, residences have become more tightly sealed. In this enclosed setting, indoor vapors from consumer products formulated with volatile organic compounds tend to accumulate to levels that compromise indoor air quality and may pose health risks. For example, at sufficient concentration, formaldehyde is considered a carcinogen. Volatile organic compounds incorporated in adhesives in building materials and furniture may gradually out-gas into the indoor environment for years, providing an ongoing source of indoor pollution.

What To Do

Health threats posed by these compounds are reduced when concentration is diluted with fresh air. Make sure your house receives sufficient ventilation and doesn’t stagnate. Keep HVAC airflow healthy with regular filter changes and annual preventive maintenance checkups. Also try to shift toward a pollutant-free lifestyle by purchasing VOC-free products. Many manufacturers now advertise the fact that products contain no volatile organic compounds. When in doubt, check labels for ingredients that may be VOCs and try to find alternatives.

Your heating and cooling system is an ally in controlling VOCs. Ask the professionals at Paitson Bros. for more information. For over 95 years, we’ve been your source for a healthy, comfortable indoor environment.

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