Breathe Easier by Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home
Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are a group of volatile chemicals easily emitted into the air because of their high vapor pressure at room temperature. These compounds are found in most manmade items, such as carpeting, appliances, paint, cleaning products, and personal care products, to name just a few. Regrettably, the VOCs that make our homes look nice can pose serious dangers to our health and well-being. So, let’s look at the dangers and sources of VOCs in the home. We also will give you important tips on how to reduce your VOC exposure.
Dangers of VOCs
Over the short term, exposure to VOCs can lead to health problems, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. VOCs also can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to more serious health problems, such as liver and kidney damage, respiratory problems, and even cancer.
Common Sources of VOCs in the Home
Your home harbors a vast array of VOCs sources, including:
- Paints and coatings used on walls, furniture, and floors, which release VOC fumes into the air that can be harmful if inhaled.
- Household cleaning products, including floor cleaners, glass cleaners, and bathroom cleaners. An additional danger: these products are frequently used in poorly ventilated areas such as shower stalls, which can increase exposure.
- Air fresheners are loaded with VOCs, including phthalates, which are known to disrupt hormones in the body. Air fresheners can also contain other harmful chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde.
- Building materials, including carpets, adhesives, and insulation, can release fumes into the air for years after they have been installed.
- Personal care products, such as perfumes, hair sprays, and deodorants, often contain VOCs. These products can be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Identifying VOCs in the Home
If you are feeling unwell and are not sure why, you may have high levels of VOCs in your home. Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea can all be symptoms of VOC exposure. The best way to discover the source of the exposure is to have your home tested by a professional. A professional can help pinpoint or rule out the responsible sources.
RTK has tested hundreds of homes for VOCs and was surprised to find out that in many cases, popular brands of furniture, including baby items, were off the charts for these dangerous chemicals.
“We recently tested the new nursery of a newborn child, and just about everything was emitting toxic fumes,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK. “These products were from a brand name, very popular company—we were shocked,” Weitz said. “People buy products they think are ‘healthy’ but they don’t read the labels, and that’s where you’ll find the truth.” He recommends testing for many reasons.
Weitz emphasized that testing can help preserve the property value of your house, which is likely to be a household’s largest financial asset. He recommends that homebuyers test before they purchase a house. In turn, homeowners should test for VOCs prior to putting a home on the market.
Property owners also could have VOC compliance concerns, said Weitz. VOC testing may be required to comply with local, state, or federal regulations. For example, some states require VOC testing for certain types of building materials or household products.
Reducing Exposure to VOCs
There are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to VOCs in the home:
- Choose low-VOC products: When purchasing paints, cleaning products, air fresheners, and personal care products, choose products that are labeled “low-VOC” or “VOC-free.”
- Increase ventilation: Proper ventilation can help reduce exposure to VOCs. Open windows and doors, use exhaust fans and change the filters regularly, and use air purifiers with carbon filters to improve indoor air quality.
- Avoid harsh cleaning products: Instead of using harsh cleaning products, try using natural alternatives, such as vinegar and baking soda.
- Be careful when renovating: If you are renovating your home, be aware of the VOCs in building materials and choose low-VOC options whenever possible.
- Let new furniture air out: Before you bring new furniture or carpeting into your home, unwrap it and let it air out for a few days in the garage or a well-ventilated area. This will reduce the level of VOC buildup in your home.
- Store products safely: Store products containing VOCs in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and disposal.
VOCs are a serious concern in the home and can pose a significant danger to our health and well-being. VOC testing is important for identifying potential sources of exposure to harmful chemicals, improving indoor air quality, and ensuring compliance with regulations. Homeowners can take steps to reduce their exposure to VOCs by choosing low-VOC products, increasing ventilation, and storing products safely.
If you are concerned about VOCs in your home, consider scheduling a VOC testing appointment with a qualified professional like RTK Environmental. By being aware of the sources of VOCs and taking steps to reduce exposure, we can help ensure that our homes are safe and healthy places to live. Call us at 800.392.6468 to learn more.