Well-intentioned attempts at energy conservation in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in many improvements in building structures to minimize loss of heated or cooled air. Unfortunately, some of these changes resulted in reduced air exchange and negative impacts on indoor air quality. Studies have shown that many of the indoor air pollutants are in a class of chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs easily evaporate at room temperature and are found in many common household products:
• Nail Polish (acetone)
• Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
• Paint stripper (methylene chloride)
• Carpet cleaning solutions (Trichloroethylene [TCE])
• Pressed wood products (formaldehyde)
Why should I be concerned about VOCs?
Some volatile organic compounds have no odor, so you cannot depend upon smelling the fumes to determine if you have VOC pollutants in your home. Common symptoms of a single exposure include headache, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. These symptoms are very general and can easily be overlooked.
Of greater concern are exposures to low levels of VOCs over a long period of time. Long-term exposure to some VOCs has been known to cause damage to the liver, kidney and nervous system. Some VOCs have been known to cause an increased risk of cancer when inhaled. The federal EPA has recently re-evaluated TCE and vinyl chloride and determined that young children are at greater risk for long-term negative health effects to these substances than adults.
How do I eliminate VOCs in my home?
It would be virtually impossible to remove all VOC sources from your home since volatile organic compounds are used in so many household products and building materials. However you can minimize VOCs by:
• Purchasing environmentally friendly products that contain no VOCs
• Purchasing floor models that have off-gassed in the store
• Purchase or refinish items with low-emitting finishes
• Do repairs or renovations during seasons that will allow for additional ventilation.
• Make sure you have a properly functioning ventilation system
For expert advice about eliminating VOCs and improving air quality in your home, please contact us at Climatic Conditioning Company. We have been serving the Sarasota area since 1973.