Perhaps you’ve never heard of them, but volatile organic compounds could be just about everywhere in your home. They’re carbon-based compounds that evaporate at room temperature, and they give off a gas–called off-gas–that you really shouldn’t be breathing, especially if you or any family members have a respiratory condition such as asthma. In fact, long-term exposure has been linked to cancer and liver, kidney and central nervous-system damage. Here’s an overview of VOCs, the sources and remedial action that you can take:
Sources of VOCs in the home
If you’re a handyman or handy woman, it’s likely that you have a number of substances in your garage or basement that off-gas VOCs. Those products include paints, solvents, caulk and varnish. The gasoline in your garage is also a source of VOCs, as are many vinyl floors, carpets and upholstery fabrics. Common household substances such as air fresheners, cleaning supplies, cosmetics and moth balls contain VOCs. Even newspapers can off-gas.
Effects of exposure to VOCs
Although long term exposure has been linked to serious acute health problems, short-term exposure can have symptoms that you might not even connect with VOC exposure. Those symptoms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Throat, nose and eye irritation.
Getting rid of the VOCs in your home
You can start by inspecting your home for sources of VOCs. Remove the products that off-gas. When you’re purchasing cleaning and home-improvement supplies, buy only what you need for the specific project. Check the labels. Be aware, however, that some supplies such as paints that are labeled “no-VOC” and “zero-VOC” can contain as many as five grams of the compound, according to Environmental Protection Agency regulations. When you’re using the supplies, follow the directions carefully.
You can also use cooling, ventilation and humidity strategies to lower your exposure. Keep the temperature and the humidity as low as possible. VOCs off-gas more quickly when it’s hot and humid. Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors. Also use your fans. Because homes in our region are tightly closed in the summer because of the heat and humidity, putting off your major improvement projects until you can open your windows will lower the concentration of VOCs.
For more information on controlling the the volatile organic compounds in your home, contact CCAC. We’ve provided exceptional HVAC system and indoor-air quality solutions for Corpus Christi homeowners for more than 35 years.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Corpus Christi, Texas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about volatile organic compounds and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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