VOC is the acronym used for Volatile Organic Compounds. So what are VOC’s ? They are essentially a large group of chemicals that can be found in many building products and as a result, we are exposed to them almost everywhere we go…to work, to the mall, to a movie theater and especially in our own homes. They pose a risk to human health and can greatly affect our well-being.
Where are VOC’s found most often?
At PUR Distribution we have found that a majority of VOC’s are found in building materials, personal/home care products and even in some of the activities that we perform. But how do we come in contact with these toxic chemicals? Once these chemicals are in our homes, for example, they are released or “off-gas” into the indoor air we breathe. Let’s first take a look at the list below to give you a better understanding of where we can expect to find VOC’s in the most common places:
How can we tell if we are being exposed to high levels of VOC’s? Not all VOC’s have an odour. Some of the symptoms of exposure include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, worsening symptoms of asthma, just to mention a few. Unfortunately, if we ignore these signs, the long-term effects to chronic exposure can include liver and kidney damage, central nervous system damage and even cancer.
The reason for this post is to bring awareness and educate you about the seriousness of these chemicals. There are numerous ways to reduce the levels of VOC’s around you. Firstly, it is important to know that the VOC’s emanating from a product dissipates over time as the chemicals vaporize. For example, the VOC’s from paint dissipate fairly quickly: usually most off-gassing occurs during the first six months after application. Other sources such as particle board used for shelving, furniture or other building projects may continue to off gas for 20 years or more.
Home Renovations increase the amount VOC’s .
I know it is exciting to finally finish your renovation at home or perhaps start driving your new car…but keep in mind that you are surrounded by so many VOC’s: new flooring? new furniture? fresh coat of paint? new car smell? Now that you know a bit more about this topic, I am sure you will reconsider using a room freshener or scented candle to mask the smells…you’d just be exasperating the problem.
Formaldehyde is one of the most common VOC’s. It is a colourless gas but has a bitter smell. It is common in many building supplies such as plywood, particleboard and glues. It can also be found in some drapes and fabrics and in certain types of foam insulation.
The best way to avoid exposure is to control the source. This seems difficult, since they seem to be in so many places. Here are some suggestions from our experts here at PUR Distribution:
- Use paints and building products that give off fewer VOC’s. Many products are clearly labelled as “containing low VOC’s”
- Minimize the use of scented products such as room deodorizers, plug-ins, scented candles
- Store new furniture, flooring or any new building materials outside. This will allow gases to be expelled before bringing them into your home.
- Buy only enough paint, cleaners and solvents for immediate use so you don’t have to store them in your home. I recommend storing products like these in a shed or a room that has proper ventilation. (If you do have to throw unused products away, please ensure you safely and properly dispose of them).
- Open windows when using personal products to ventilate perfumes, aerosols…
- Get an air purifier! Many air purification units have Carbon/Potassium Permanganate Filters or Photo Catalytic Oxidation filters that remove VOC’s in the air.