Volatile Organic Compounds: What They Are, and What to Do About Them

August 1, 2013
Ross and Witmer

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are carbon compounds found in common household products. VOCs vaporize into the air at room temperature. Most volatile organic compounds have no smell, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t high levels in the air you are breathing. These carbon-based chemicals are found in many places frequented by the typical Charlotte area resident.

What Are Some Examples of VOCs?

Paint is a prime example. EPA estimates of indoor concentrations of VOCs are up to 10 times higher than outdoor concentrations. These concentrations can rise up to 1000 times higher when you are applying paint.

May VOCs are emitted from items typically found in the home. These “off-gas” VOCs include:

  • Wall to wall carpeting
  • Carpeting glues
  • Particle board and pressed wood
  • Dried paints
  • Sealants and caulks
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Furniture fabrics
  • Varnishes
  • Vinyl flooring

Why Aren’t Volatile Organic Compounds Good for Us?

When you inhale volatile organic compounds over time, the risks of health problems increases, especially if you have respiratory issues or are sensitive to chemicals. Since VOCs refer to a wide group of chemicals, it’s important to keep in mind that each VOC has the potential to affect your health differently.

What Should We Do About VOCs?

Prevention is the best protection. Limit your exposure to VOCs when possible.

Reducing levels in your home is important. Ventilation is key when limiting your family’s exposure to VOCs.

Some Key Ways to Increase Ventilation in Your Home

  • Make a habit of opening doors and windows to get the air circulating.
  • Use fans, but don’t use the fan on a central air system by itself without the compressor running. Consider having a qualified professional install a whole-house fan.
  • Keep the temperature low using air conditioners, and use dehumidifiers to keep down humidity.
  • Make home improvements during seasons that allow you to open windows and doors while using other ventilation systems.

If you would like more information on reducing your exposure to volatile organic compounds through proper ventilation and air cleaning, please contact us at Ross & Witmer. We have been proudly serving the Charlotte and surrounding areas since 1945.

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