Look Out for Volatile Organic Compounds

April 5, 2016

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a known indoor air pollutant and in sensitive people, can undermine health. VOCs come from many common products used in and around the home, and in their case, a little knowledge is a good thing. Every VOC you avoid inside your home keeps the air cleaner and safer to breathe. VOCs are gases that come from anything made from a hydrocarbon, and may or not be detectable by smell. They can cause minor respiratory irritations and headaches, or side effects as serious as cancer and neurological damage. The most common source of VOCs indoors include:
  • Air fresheners
  • Anything perfumed, including candles, makeup and hairspray
  • New furniture, flooring, adhesives, paints and finishes, and wallpaper
  • Some plastics, especially shower curtains
  • Cleaning products
  • Vehicle exhaust
You can control the VOCs inside your home by:
  • Avoiding them - Look for a clean air label on new home improvement products or a statement that they're low in VOCs. Unscented candles are available and restrict your use of air fresheners that are heavily perfumed and work by masking odors instead of eliminating them. When choosing a new shower curtain, look for one made with PEVA instead of vinyl. Avoid inhaling exhaust from anything powered by a fuel.
  • Diluting them - Fresh air will dilute the concentration of volatile organic compounds, and opening doors and windows when using products high in VOCs will lower their concentration indoors. Almost every kind of paint has a low VOC alternative, but if you can't get away from them with other home improvement products, air them outside before bringing them indoors.
  • Neutralizing them - Putting UV (ultraviolet) lights inside your home's forced air heating and cooling system will mutate the VOCs into harmless substances. Whether placed inside the blower compartment or the ductwork, UV lights manage air quality year-round, and also reduce the spread of mold, viruses and bacteria.
Because volatile organic compounds can harm your health and indoor air quality, taking steps to mitigate their impact will help you breathe easier. To learn more, contact Lozier Heating & Cooling, providing HVAC services for Des Moines homeowners. Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater Des Moines, Iowa area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). Credit/Copyright Attribution: "alison1414/Shutterstock"