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What are VOCs

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What are VOCs?

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Jun 09, 2022

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are substances that quickly evaporate and become mixed into the air in your home.  VOCs are produced during combustion (for example on a paraffin heater, cigarette smoke or gas oven), but some household products including cleaning products and solvents can also emit them.

Some of the most common VOCs are Benzene, acetone, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride.  The names might sound scary, but you will find them in many products around your home including Paints, solvents, upholstery fabrics, and carpets as well as in cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, and even cosmetics

Dry cleaning, cooking, smoking, some non-electric space heaters, photocopying or printing, wood burners, and electrical gadgets, stored paints, and chemicals can all be used to make them.

VOCs are so prevalent in some homes, that the number of individual chemicals can be well above 100.

Should you be worried about VOCs?

The danger to your health from VOCs is dependent on a number of factors including the quantity that are found in the air you breathe, and the frequency with which you come into contact with them.

The people who are most vulnerable when it comes to VOCs are older people, those with respiratory conditions including asthma, and small children.

Short-term exposure to high amounts of the chemicals, according to scientists, can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and asthma symptoms to worsen.  Scientific research reveal that long-term, high-level chronic exposure can raise the risk of liver damage, kidney damage, cancer, and central nervous system damage.

Breathing low quantities of the substances over lengthy periods of time, according to scientists, may raise the risk of issues for some people, especially if they already have underlying respiratory disorders like asthma.  Several studies have suggested that exposure to VOCs may aggravate asthma symptoms.

What can you do about them?

The most important thing you can do is to limit the amount of contact you have with VOCs.

Start by looking at the list of chemical compounds in your cleaning goods to see what's in them.  You can find VOC-free products, such as plant-based cleansers or organic products in most supermarkets. 

If you have a lot of paint in your home for example when decorating or if you have hobbies, it’s a good idea to store it outside in a shed or garage to reduce evaporation into your environment. 

Manufacturing processes can leave a residue of VOCs on household furnishings, clothing, and electronic goods, so give new furniture time to air, and where possible, wash items before use using a plant-based cleaning product.

 Reduce the risks in your home office

With more people working from home, we are coming into increased contact with chemicals from printing.  Many home offices are in smaller rooms with poor ventilation and people will normally work with their door closed to minimise distraction.  If you spend a lot of time in your home office, consider moving your printer well away from your desk close to a source of ventilation, and try to only print when you have the window open.

Be Mindful when Cleaning

VOCs such as benzene and acetaldehyde are released when garments are washed.  Ensure that your kitchen, utility room, or laundry room is sufficiently aired on wash days, and dry your clothes outside if feasible.  If you're doing laundry inside, open the windows in the room where it's drying.

Use your extractor fans when cleaning bathrooms and kitchens to draw the chemicals from cleaning products out of the room and keep the air safe to breathe.

Dealing with VOCs

Continuous ventilation is the most effective way of dealing with VOCs in your home.  Positive Input Ventilation runs quietly in the background bringing in fresh filtered air from outside and releasing it gently into your home to displace air that might have a build-up of VOCs.

PIV systems are energy-efficient whole-house ventilation devices that will also help to prevent condensation and mould – another source of allergens in your hair.

Find out More

If you are concerned about Volatile Organic Compounds, and the effect they can have on your indoor air quality and health, it is important to speak to an expert.  Our local specialists can conduct a free home survey to assess the level of ventilation in your home and provide advice about the best way to improve your indoor air quality.

Simply enter your postcode below to find your local expert.

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