Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases or vapors released by solid materials utilized in the construction and furnishings of residences, as well as many common household liquids. Formaldehyde, for example, is the best-known VOC, emitted by both solid and liquid sources.
Other potential origins of volatile organic compounds in the home include paints, glues, cleaners, disinfectants and even air fresheners.
The principle health threat posed by exposure to VOCs is a factor of both concentration as well as daily, repeated exposure. Because most houses today are tightly sealed for energy efficiency, concentration of gases and vapors inside an enclosed residence may rise to levels that are considered unhealthy by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA reports that occupants of buildings may be exposed to indoor levels of volatile organic compounds that are up to five times higher than outdoors. Moreover, because most people spend approximately 75% of their time inside their home versus outdoors, exposure to these airborne toxins is ongoing and repetitive.
Possible symptoms as well as long-term health effects of VOCs include:
- Irritation of eyes, nose and throat.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Headaches and nausea.
- Loss of coordination.
- Liver and kidney damage, as well as central nervous system effects.
- Some VOCs are suspected to be a cause of cancer in humans.
Here’s what you can do to protect your indoor air quality:
- Provide adequate fresh air ventilation when using products that include VOCs.
- Make sure your HVAC system filter is clean and changed regularly to sustain proper air circulation.
- Don’t store opened cans of paints or solvents inside the house.
- Where possible, utilize household cleaning products that are formulated without VOCs.
- Reduce the need for indoor pesticides by using pest management techniques that stress prevention.
- Consider purchasing carpeting, furniture and other materials that are certified to be VOC-free.
- Follow label precautions for using any substances known to contain VOCs.
- Don’t mix household cleaning products unless the manufacturer provides instructions to do so.
For more about the effects of volatile organic compounds, ask the air quality experts at Rinaldi’s Energy Solutions.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Orlando, Florida and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).
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