July 10, 2020

If you’re concerned about the indoor air quality in your home in Las Vegas, you may be surprised to learn that many household products contain high amounts of VOCs. The first step to improving the indoor air quality in your home is to better understand what VOCs are and how they could be negatively affecting your home environment.

What Are VOCs and Where Do They Come From?

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases that are emitted by a variety of sources. Common household products that contain high amounts of potentially harmful VOCs include:

  • Building materials like plywood, glues, and particleboard
  • Personal care products like hair sprays and perfumes
  • Cleaning products like cleansers, disinfectants, and aerosol sprays
  • Home improvement products like paints, varnishes, and paint strippers
  • Craft supplies like permanent markers, modeling cement, and spray adhesives

When VOCs enter into the air, they can transform into a gas or vapor form. The particularly concerning attribute of volatile organic compounds is that they do not leave your environment once you stop using products that contain them.

How VOCs Can Affect Your Health

VOCs include a variety of different chemicals that could have a negative impact on your health. Potential short- and long-term health risks associated with volatile organic compounds include headaches, chest congestion, breathing difficulties, sore throat, fatigue, nausea, loss of coordination, and eye irritation. VOCs put family members with lung sensitivities at a greater risk of serious health issues.

What Levels of VOCs Are Considered Dangerous?

Volatile organic compound levels in the air of a home can range in severity. Higher levels of VOCs are considered to be more dangerous to human health because they contribute to poorer indoor air quality. Of course, minimizing your exposure to harmful VOCs is important, but that undertaking is sometimes easier said than done.

A major indicator for the presence of higher levels of volatile organic compounds within a home environment is the health symptoms that surface. When VOC levels are heightened, you or your family members may experience aggravated health symptoms like the ones mentioned above. If you feel that your health is being affected by poor indoor air quality, you should consider testing the air in your home for contaminants like VOCs and other pollutants. Numerous types of air quality monitoring devices can quickly test for different contaminants within the air.

How Long Do VOCs Remain in the Air?

When volatile organic compounds are introduced into a home environment, their chemicals are dispersed throughout the air through a process referred to as off-gassing. These chemicals can be emitted for quite some time and linger on surfaces like floors, furniture, and countertops. The off-gassing dispersion of VOCs could remain within the home for days, weeks, and even months. The exact length of time that volatile organic compounds will remain within the airspace will largely depend on:

  • The concentrations levels that have been released
  • How efficiently the home is ventilated
  • How much airflow there is

How Are Volatile Organic Compounds Measured?

Having the ability to measure different pollutants such as VOCs inside your home can be extremely beneficial. Indoor air quality monitoring and testing devices measure the presence of contaminants through various methods, and some are designed to work through smart devices for greater convenience. The results of these tests will measure VOC contaminations over time, which can be useful for helping you keep track of the activity of pollutants within your home.

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Exposure to VOCs

Keeping your family safe is a top priority, and there are several steps you can take to reduce exposure to VOCs within your home. The simplest way to prevent volatile organic compounds from being released inside your home is to refrain from using products that contain them.

Consider replacing bleach-based cleaning products with natural alternatives. Before purchasing new cleaning products, research what harsh chemicals they may contain. If you’re planning to touch up walls, purchase low-VOC paints. Make sure you don’t allow smoking inside or near your home, as smoke contains many pollutants. Minimize the use of scented products like candles, aerosol sprays, and plug-in deodorizers.

Of course, preventing complete exposure to VOCs may not always be a possibility. If you suspect the presence of VOCs within your home environment, make sure your home is well ventilated. You can open windows or turn on your exhaust fan when you’re using products that emit VOCs. Refrain from storing opened containers of paints or other VOC-containing products inside your home. Then, throw away empty containers instead of storing them in your garage. Just remember to follow your local safety disposal ordinances.

What Are SVOCs and How Do They Differ From VOCs?

A subgroup of volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds feature a higher molecular weight than VOCs. Homeowners can be exposed to SVOCs through multiple avenues:

  • By breathing air polluted with airborne particles
  • By touching surfaces coated with SVOCs
  • By ingesting dust contaminated with SVOCs
  • By consuming foods containing SVOCs

Since they have slightly lower volatility concentration levels than VOCs, semi-volatile organic compounds may be somewhat less toxic than VOCs. SVOCs are not as easily dispersed through the atmosphere as their VOC counterparts, either. In most instances, semi-volatile organic compounds make their home on top of furniture and other surfaces. SVOCs can remain on surfaces for a long period of time, and simply eliminating the sources of these contaminants may not necessarily ensure that they won’t continue to pollute your indoor air. These substances are slowly released from their sources over longer periods of time. Common sources of semi-volatile organic compounds include cookware, fire retardants, and pesticides.

How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

To limit your exposure to volatile organic compounds, research any products you purchase to make sure they contain low amounts of VOCs. If possible, consider purchasing products that contain only natural ingredients.

If air quality is a concern for you, there are several additional steps you can take to promote a cleaner, healthier environment. First, make sure you replace your AC unit’s air filters at least once every few months to prevent dust and dirt particles from re-circling throughout your home. Then, consider investing in an air purifier. An air purifier uses a series of filters and internal fans to remove potentially harmful pollutants like pollen, dust, dirt, and bacteria from the air. It then circulates cleaner air back into the room. This purifying process repeats several times an hour to promote healthier indoor air quality.

Finally, have your air ducts cleaned by a professional air conditioning company at least once every two years. This will prevent contaminants like dust mites and other particles from being dispersed throughout your home environment through your air conditioning unit.

Contact Your IAQ Experts

Have questions about your indoor air quality in Las Vegas? Contact the experts at The Cooling Company for more information. Dedicated to excellent workmanship, we specialize in quality heating and cooling repairs, installations, maintenance services, and ductwork services.

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