Science has shown us that all living things are made of the same basic materials, or organic compounds, including carbon. It’s a natural element that we all eat, breathe, and live with every day. As we learn more about the world we live in, we have come to know carbon as a bad thing. We talk about our “carbon footprint” in reference to air pollution, natural resources, and the impact we have on the environment. But what we are really talking about in regards to environmental problems are “volatile organic compounds.”
Volatile Organic Compounds
These volatile organic compounds also include oxygen, chlorine, and hydrogen. They are released into the air from burning fuel such as wood, coal, gasoline, or natural gas. They are also released into our indoor air from the paint on our walls, the air fresheners we spray and the solutions we use to clean our homes. We can find VOCs in products such as these:
- Vinyl flooring
Adverse Health Effects
VOCs, depending on the amount we breathe and our length of exposure to them, can present health risks and can also worsen conditions such as asthma. Short-term symptoms can begin to occur within hours of exposure and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. More long-term symptoms that build up over several years can include cancer and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.
Here are some steps you can take to limit your exposure to VOCs in the home:
- Smoke outside: Keep your home smoke-free by making smokers step outside.
- Don’t buy in bulk: When buying paints, adhesives, etc., buy only what you need to complete a project.
- Reduce and recycle: Remove any unused paint, solvents, and cleaning products. Keep remaining ones in a garage or shed. Recycle the rest by taking them to a household hazardous waste drop-off or collection site.
- HVAC maintenance: Get your air ducts cleaned regularly. Air Control home services include maintenance and repair of your HVAC system that will have you breathing free in no time.
- Venting: Keep living areas vented when you paint, get new furniture, or install new flooring of any type. These products give off more VOCs when new.
- Keep it cool: Maintain lower temperatures and humidity in the home to help prevent some emissions, which are released at higher rates in warmer temperatures and higher humidity.
Ventilation and Climate Control
Your heating and cooling system can be a big help in maintaining temperatures and in bringing fresh air into the home, which both help keep VOC emissions low. If it’s been awhile since you have had your air ducts cleaned, you should schedule a cleaning as soon as possible.
Dust, allergens, chemicals, and smoking all add to a home’s VOC level and that means it’s in your air ducts too. If you don’t clean it regularly, VOCs will continue to circulate in the home environment. That’s why it is so important to maintain your HVAC system with regular cleaning and immediate repairs when needed.