What are VOCs and How Do They Affect My Home’s Air Quality?
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are a wide ranging class of chemical compounds that under many normal household conditions become present in the air we breathe indoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids and include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short-term and/or long-term adverse health effects.
The sources of VOCs in our homes are numerous, from building materials, hobby and office products, to many different cleaning supplies, and much more.
As science and research continues to reveal more information, our team feels that it’s important for informed homeowners to know where VOCs come from, how they could affect you and your family, and along the way suggest ways to reduce your exposure to them.
Where Do VOCs in Your Home Come From?
According to the EPA, concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. There are literally thousands of manufactured products that emit VOCs, which means they could theoretically come from almost anywhere in your home.
Here are some examples of some of the more common household items that could contribute to emitting VOCs in your home:
- Bathroom, kitchen, and laundry cleaning products
- Degreasers and stain removers
- Air fresheners and disinfectants
- Cosmetics and deodorants
- Wood cleaners and preservatives
- Wood furniture and other wood products
- Paints, wood stain, and lacquers
- Paint strippers
- Pesticides and fertilizers
- Stored fuels and automotive products
- All-fuel heaters such as wood and pellet stoves
- Building materials
- Caulks and sealants
- Office equipment such as copiers and printers (and their supplies), correction fluids, and carbonless copy paper
- Graphic arts and craft materials such as glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions
The Potential Health Effects of VOCs
According to the American Lung Association, breathing in certain VOCs in relatively high levels, or for sensitive individuals, can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and even cause difficulty breathing, nausea, and vomiting.
The EPA adds headaches, nosebleeds, allergic skin reactions, fatigue, dizziness, and loss of coordination to the list of the potential health effects of VOCs. Not to be overly alarmist, but it’s also been shown that VOCs can contribute to damage to the central nervous system, as well as other crucial internal organs. Some VOCs are suspected or known to be cancer-causing agents.
It would be easy for many people to say that each individual is different, with varying levels of sensitivity and tolerance, but these are well documented facts from reputable sources and our team feels it best not to simply ignore this information.
How Can I Reduce VOCs In My Home?
Keeping VOCs and other indoor air pollutants under control starts with proper ventilation in your home, which was hopefully equipped with the right equipment when it was first built. Important ventilation products include bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans – and making sure they are operated on a regular basis! Proper venting for appliances such as a clothes dryer, and of course your heating and hot water systems, are also part of the proper whole-house ventilation picture. (Note: This also goes for your attic and basement areas.) Another ventilation product that has slowly been carving a niche in the tight-home market in our region are energy recovery ventilators, ERVs, a product that may make sense to consider in certain cases.
Central Air Purification: The REME HALO
If your home is heated by a central forced air furnace, another effective way to control and reduce VOCs in your home is to combine the above ventilation best practices with a high quality central air purifier. As many of our customers know, our team recommends the REME HALO in-duct central air purifier from RGF Environmental, an advanced air purifier that neutralizes a high percentage of VOCs and many other harmful pollutants, along with providing additional benefits.
Mimicking the sun and the disinfecting processes of mother nature, the REME HALO combines a unique, proprietary catalyst and UV (ultraviolet) light technology, resulting in an air purifier that creates and propagates appropriate levels of airborne hydrogen peroxide molecules, treating all of the air in your home – not just the air passing through your furnace and ducting system. It’s far more than a conventional UV air treatment lamp that just zaps bacteria as it flies by.
With regard to treating VOCs, specifically, in tests conducted by independent third-party labs, the REME HALO has demonstrated high degrees of effectiveness neutralizing the plant hormone gas ethylene, formaldehyde and other VOCs including hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs), methyl mercaptan (rotten cabbage), and methyl metharcyline (plastic). This is in addition to being highly effective neutralizing a wide range of airborne and surface bacteria, viruses, mold, and smoke, while also improving the performance of virtually any type of furnace filter.
What About VOCs and Your Water Supply?
Unfortunately, it has been shown that VOCs can also insinuate themselves into your home’s water supply, potentially further complicating this issue. Fortunately, if deemed necessary, there are proven products available that can mitigate VOCs from your home’s water. If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to our water quality team in regard to the Lead Titanium Series whole-house water filter from Brita PRO.
The Right Combination of Products and Practices
Along with properly functioning ‘everyday’ exhaust fans – and making sure to use them routinely – for treating VOCs in your home or simply doing all you can to achieve the cleanest, healthiest indoor air, the REME HALO central air purifier is a great product to use in combination with a high efficiency furnace filter and a properly matched, proven central humidifier. Homeowners routinely turn to our team at Save Home Heat with confidence for expert advice and recommendations on the right IAQ products to meet their needs.
Meeting Indoor Air Quality Needs In Denver-Boulder Homes
Save Home Heat Company has been proudly serving Boulder-Denver area homeowners for over 40 years. Please reach out to our team today if you’d like more information on the REME HALO central air purifier, a free, low-pressure installation quote, or for any of your home needs that we can assist with.