AirKing Lasko B-Air Blue-dri

Fighting VOCs

If you are reading this post, you probably either have a little bit of an understanding of what VOCs are or at least are interested in finding out why we need to be fighting VOCs. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. Volatile is not a word generally used in the everyday language and it sounds a little scary. Let’s first understand what a VOC is.

Volatile Organic Compounds are all around us in many of the products we use. The most common use is in paint products as well as cleaners. VOCs dilute or dissolve other ingredients in those products to make them more effective. Paint is probably one of the most recognized ones but VOC are also used in items like mattresses and building materials as flame-retardants. A common alternative name for VOCs is off-gas. This happens because VOCs have a high vapor pressure that allows them to evaporate easily. For instance when paint is put on a surface it immediately start to off-gas as part of the drying and curing process, that is what you are smelling. With paint, this off-gas is a byproduct but with items like perfumes and fragrances, the off-gas is part of the design. It is what allows them to “smell” nice for longer periods of time.

Why do we need to be fighting VOCs as the title of this article suggest? Part of the off-gas process means that the “bad” stuff is entering into the air that we are breathing. This can cause minor symptoms like coughing or eye irritation but can also escalate to things like headaches, decreased lung function or a metal fog and in extreme case even more serious health issues.

Now that we have most of the bad news out of the way we can turn our attention to fighting VOCs. The first step is to try and reduce your exposure to VOCs by looking a little closer at the products you are using. Here are a few tips on what you can do:

  1. Look for paint that is VOC free or at least low VOC. While these are still going to have some VOCs (even the VOC free ones – sorry), they will be greatly reduced from the standard paints.
  2. Look for fragrant-free cleaners and especially laundry detergent. Have you ever gone into your laundry room and been “hit” with the smell of flowers or fragrance – that is your cleaners and/or detergents off-gassing their VOCs into the air. This is usually intensified in a laundry room due to the fact that it is a smaller and typically enclosed room.
  3. Avoid items that come in the form of an aerosol. VOCs are detrimental due to them being able to easily enter the airflow. Aerosols by nature put product into the airflow. Aerosols also typically have some type of product like formaldehyde or some of the other nasty chemicals in them.

A second step in fighting VOCs it to look to the ventilation of your home. Having a well ventilated home is essential to having a better living environment. VOCs as well as other contaminates are going to build up in you home. That is part of living. Having a plan in place like a ventilation system and a way to bring fresh air into the home will great reduce your risks and exposure. Even opening a window while cleaning if you can is a great way to help your indoor air quality. Many home are already equipped with exhaust fans in their bathrooms and kitchen. This is great and they should be utilized. More and more homes are now also utilizing a continuous running exhaust fan in a central location of the home. It is actually part of the building code. The goal is to exhaust as much as possible out and then bring fresh air in to dilute anything that remains. Most would agree that these methods make sense and many practice them, here is where a lot of homeowners lose a little sight. For many homes the largest source of VOC’s is typically located in the laundry room. As we mentioned above these rooms are usually small and enclosed so the amount of VOCs that build-up is significant. Adding a small exhaust fan that vents to the outdoors in these rooms can have a tremendous effect on lowering the amount of VOCs in the room.

While we would like to suggest avoiding VOCs all together, that is almost impossible to do in our currently living environment. VOCs in some form or fashion are all around us. Doing what you can to limit your exposure to them is step one, improving your indoor air quality with ventilation and fresh air is step two.

For more information about the indoor air quality of your home and how you can improve it, please read through the many articles we have written over the years. For information regarding Air King exhaust fan and fresh air intake solutions click on the links in the menu at the top of the page.

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