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How Volatile Organic Compounds Affect Indoor Air Quality


VOCs Image-Clean Air PlusPeople are growing more and more concerned about the quality of the air they breathe; more information is coming to light about how poor air quality can negatively affect one's health, making this issue more important than ever before. Although most of us are aware of the problems associated with smog and other industrial pollution that is seen hanging over the sky of many major cities, a lot of us don't realize just how toxic the air inside our own home is. In addition to mold spores, dust mites and other common airborne pollutants, volatile organic compounds - also known as VOCs - are found in homes in concentrations of more than 1,000 times of those found outdoors.

What Are Volatile Organic Compounds?

If you don't know precisely what VOCs are, then the news about their high concentration in the home may not worry you too much. However, studies have shown that continual exposure to VOCs can cause a multitude of health issues. Some are mild, but many chronic conditions have also been linked to VOCs. The problem is concerning enough that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has issued an official definition for VOCs and considers them to be a legitimate health hazard. VOCs are carbon based molecules that are used in a broad array of different products. As such, they are found practically everywhere, including many outdoor areas. For instance, the gas expelled by cows is methane, which is a volatile organic compound. While VOCs are relatively harmless outdoors - they are not very concentrated in the environment - they become hazardous when they are bottled up inside a home. If you're thinking, "Hey! I don't keep cows in my home!" consider this: VOCs are emitted by many common household items, including paints, carpets, cleaning products and other common items.

How Do VOCs Get Inside The Home?

Whenever you have new carpet installed, spray a household cleaner, repaint your walls or refinish your floors, you are introducing VOCs into the air in your home. Many of these things have very distinct odors, making it pretty apparent that VOCs are at work. However, these things can continue emitting VOCs long after initial use. The carpet that you had installed months ago is probably still expelling VOCs into the air in your home. Over time, your home's indoor air quality becomes more and more compromised. Although the effects of this indoor air pollution may not be immediately apparent, it is slowly and steadily having a negative impact on your health and well-being by creating unhealthy indoor air quality.

What Specific Kinds Of VOCs Are There?

"Volatile organic compound" is a blanket term that encompasses many different organic, or carbon-based, compounds. One of the most common VOCs that is introduced to the home is formaldehyde. Although this chemical is most popularly known as the preservative used by funeral homes, it is also present in a broad range of different household products. Adhesives and glues are just two examples of things that contain formaldehyde; using them introduces this chemical into the air in your home, and you and your family members inhale it unwittingly. Another very common VOC found in the home is polyurethane. Many different sealants, foams, varnishes and paints use polyurethane, and the chemical is what gives many of those products their distinctive smell. As the polyurethane begins to off-gas from various items in your home, it enters the air and lowers the indoor air quality of your home. Imagine, then, a toxic stew including formaldehyde, polyurethane and other noxious chemicals swirling around in the air you breathe: that's the primary problem with volatile organic compounds.

What You Can Do About VOCs

You can reduce the levels of VOCs in your home by conscientiously avoiding certain products. Many green or earth friendly household cleaners prominently display the fact that they are "No VOC" or "low VOC." By aiming to use only these types of products, you can reduce the number of these chemicals in the air in your home. At the same time, whenever you engage in home improvements you can stick with paints that contain no VOCs or very low levels of VOCs. Every little bit certainly helps, but despite all of that there will still be VOCs in the air in your home.

Air Purifiers with Activated Carbon Remove VOCs Better Than Anything

Beyond avoiding products with a lot of VOCs, you should use high quality HEPA air purifiers that include an activated carbon filter in your home to eliminate VOCs in the air. A high quality air purifier with a true HEPA filter along with an activated carbon filter  can help with removing allergens for  allergy, sinus and asthma relief. Ultimately promoting better health. 


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