Volatile Organic Compounds are one of the most commonly found indoor air pollutants in seemingly harmless products and activities. Due to a lack of open air the concentrations of VOCs can be upto ten times higher indoors than outdoors. VOCs are gases emitted from chemicals such as benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene; who are commonly found in our daily household products like paints, varnishes and wax, cleaning chemicals, disinfectants, deodorants, room fresheners and cosmetic products.
How do VOCs affect our health?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs can have various short-term health effects:
Eye, nose and throat irritation
Allergic skin reaction
Also, long-term health effects from prolonged exposure:
Damage to liver and kidney
Central nervous system damage
Linked to cancer in humans and animals
Some steps to reduce exposure to VOCs include:
a) Source Control: If you cannot avoid using products that emit VOCs such as wall paint, try to reduce and restrict usage. Also, choose the time of such activities responsibly, like get the house painted when unoccupied. If you cannot purchase quantities for immediate consumption, store the chemicals in the dark and seal them tightly to avoid leaks or evaporation. If possible, opt for eco-friendly products that contain less harmful chemicals like bleach.
b) Ventilation and Climate Control: For items like wall paint, wood polish, solvents, it is important to air out the room with fans and ventilation. Keep doors and windows open for circulation of air. Also, chemicals release harmful gases in high temperatures and humidity. Therefore, maintain temperature and humidity levels as per the standards set by experts such as ISHRAE or ASHRAE.
c) HEPA Carbon filters: Sometimes just ventilation is not enough. If the space is fully occupied while using such chemicals, the particles released in the room quickly settle into our lungs. To speed up the process of removing the VOCs, Air Purifiers are helpful. The air cleaners must be equipped with a HEPA Carbon filter which is specially designed to catch smaller particulate pollutants like gases.
Conscious purchases help reduce the chemicals we bring into our home. Even products like sanitizers which are vital for surface cleaning, can be harmful for our lungs. Therefore, while dealing with such chemicals, masks should be worn. People with respiratory issues like Asthma or Bronchitis must avoid VOC emitting chemicals strictly.
A clean house is important but clean air for your lungs is fundamental.