Our homes are supposed to be our safe havens from the harm and stress of the outside world. To keep our family safe, many of us spend big money on security systems to keep the bad guys out.
But what if some of the things that can do us the most harm are lurking in our house right now, invisible to the naked eye? I’m talking about volatile organic compounds, otherwise known as VOCs. These toxic chemicals are emitted from many different sources and negatively impact our health, especially the health of our children.
What are VOCs Exactly?
VOCs are gases that are emitted from a wide array of everyday household items (some of which may shock you). Testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown that concentrations of VOCs are much higher (up to 10x higher) indoors than outdoors. These findings are consistent, no matter whether the homes are located in rural or highly industrial areas.
Another thing EPA studies have shown is that exposure to toxic pollutants can persist even when the initial action is completed. So for instance, you paint a room in your house and eventually the paint (containing VOCs) dries, so you may assume you and your family are out of the woods. Not quite. That paint, even when dry, can emit harmful VOCs for weeks, months and even years.
The Most Common VOCs Found in Most Homes
VOCs are used as ingredients in many household products from paints and varnishes to solvents and disinfecting agents. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a list of some of the most common VOCs that may be lurking in your home:
- Paints, paint strippers and other solvents
- Wood preservatives
- Aerosol sprays
- Cleansers and disinfectants
- Moth balls
- Air fresheners
- Stored fuels and automotive products
- Hobby supplies (glues and stains)
- Dry-cleaned clothing
- Building materials
- Furniture and mattresses
- Office equipment (copiers and printers, carbonless copy paper)
- Craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.
The Health Effects of VOCs
Well, they don’t call these organic compounds volatile for nothing. Don’t let the word “organic” fool you. While it may be healthy for us to eat organic produce, there is nothing healthy about VOCs. In fact, living with VOCs in your home can cause health issues. Some of these issues may be mild and some severe.
VOCs have been known to cause:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
- Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
- Allergic skin reactions
Some VOCs have even been shown to cause cancer in animals. While more testing will need to be done, health experts suspect than some VOCs can also cause cancer in humans.
Protect Your Home and Your Family from VOCs
The extent of any health effects of VOCs depends on level of exposure and length of time exposed to these chemicals. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your family’s exposure to VOCs in your home:
Look for paints and other household products that are free of VOCs.
Should you use paints, varnishes and solvents that do emit VOCs, be sure to ventilate the area well when using the products.
Never store opened containers of unused paints and other similar materials within your home or attached garage.
Hazardous products have warnings that aim to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. Always follow manufacturers precautions and directions when using materials that contain VOCs.
Smell your dry-cleaned clothes. If they have a strong chemical odor when you ;pick them up, do not take them until they have properly dried. If this happens often, try a different dry cleaner.
Why Every Home Should Use an Air Purifier to Eliminate Dangerous VOCs
The above steps will help reduce your exposure to harmful VOCs. But let’s be honest, these chemicals are everywhere. They are not only in paints and varnishes and solvents but in carpeting, flooring, furniture (including mattresses), caulks, and sealants. They are everywhere. And unless you have unlimited funds to be able to strip old floors and carpet and buy completely new furniture, VOCs will still be off-gassed into your home’s environment.
This is why everyone should use an air purifier in their house or apartment. As long as you use the right kind of air purifier, you can be sure your unit will catch the VOC gasses, so you and your family don’t breathe them in.
So how can you be sure you purchase the right unit for the job?
Look for Carbon Filtration
This is essential. Many air purifiers are marketed as having robust HEPA filtration systems. HEPA filters are great at trapping airborne particles like dust mites, pet dander, bacteria and pollen, but they can’t trap gasses.
The only thing that will effectively trap VOC gasses is a carbon filtration system. Activated carbon is carbon that has been treated to be able to collect gas vapors. VOCs stick the surface of carbon air filters until the filter surface is fully saturated.
Yes, you will also want a HEPA filter to remove other airborne molecules that can cause allergies and other respiratory reactions. And finally, make sure your unit has been built to treat the size of your room. This is also crucial. You cannot expect a small until that was manufactured to handle a 300 square foot bedroom to effectively handle a 1200 square foot living room.
You’ll want to make sure to change your HEPA and carbon filters according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Once your filters become saturated, they cannot properly remove harmful pollutants.
We’d Love to Help!
We invite you to browse our air purifiers specifically made to remove VOC chemicals from your home’s environment. If you have any questions about carbon filtration or how to size your room properly, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re not just in the business of selling high-quality air purifiers, we’re in the business of helping people make their homes as safe as possible.