Getting the Unhealthy VOCs out of Your Indoor Air

September 2, 2013
Ross and Witmer

Volatile organic compounds are a variety of carbon-based chemicals that evaporate at low temperatures and are precursors to ozone, which can then create smog under certain conditions. The biggest source of VOCs is automobiles. But there are significant amounts in most American homes, as well. A variety of household products emit these fumes.

Why VOCs Are Important

When you opened that can of paint to redo your living room, you may have thought the smell was just unpleasant. You might be surprised, however, to learn that the fumes given off by the paint–as well as a number of other household chemicals–can cause a host of health issues, including:

  • Skin and eye irritation.
  • Nausea.
  • Headaches.
  • Discomfort.

Even more concerning, long-term exposure can lead to organ and central nervous-system damage.

Sources of VOCs

A variety of building materials and home and personal-care products emit VOCs. Sources include carpets and adhesives, paints, caulk, solvents, varnishes, air fresheners, cosmetics, gasoline, moth balls and vehicle exhaust. Dry cleaning and even newspapers emit VOCs. 

How to Get VOCs out of Your Indoor Air

Minimizing the VOCs in your air calls for a comprehensive strategy that begins when you purchase anything that comes into your home.

  • Opt for products that are as natural as possible when you’re buying household cleaners. Better yet, make your household cleaners yourself. Vinegar and baking soda are time-honored cleaning solutions.
  • Choose paints that are labeled low-VOC.
  • Buy only the amount of chemicals that you need for the project you’re undertaking. The fewer chemicals you store in your basement or garage, the better.
  • Some homeowners opt for used furniture over new, not only because it’s less expensive, but also because the VOCs have been off-gassed.

Limit exposure in your home by going through the basement and garage and safely disposing of old containers. Make sure any chemicals that you plan to keep are well sealed.

Also make sure you have exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms. Consider installing an exhaust fan in your garage, especially if you use it as a workroom. Finally, inspect the wall between your garage and your living space, and seal any air leaks.

Have questions about the quality of the air in your Charlotte-area home? Contact the experts at Ross & Witmer. We can give you all the information you need and help you make your home both energy-efficient and safe.

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