Volatile organic compounds are harmful chemicals released into the air through a process called off-gassing. VOCs include formaldehyde, benzene, acetone, xylene and ethylene glycol. Although not all VOCs emit a noticeable odor, if you have ever brought home new vinyl items, such as packaged vinyl tiles or a shower curtain, you may have noticed a strong odor when you opened the package. What you smelled are VOCs emitted from the vinyl. Many home items contain VOCs and may degrade your home’s indoor air quality.
Common items that emit VOCs
- Pressed wood furniture
- Dry cleaning fluid
- Acetone-based nail polish remover
- Cleaning chemicals
- Air fresheners
- Copiers and printers
- Caulk and adhesives
- Solvent-based paint removers
Reducing indoor exposure to VOCs
While it’s difficult to avoid volatile organic compounds completely, you can take steps to reduce your exposure within the home.
- Take unused paint, varnish, caulking and cleaning chemicals to your local hazardous waste facility. As these products sit around the home, they emit VOCs. An odor may not be noticeable, but the danger is still there.
- Allow vinyl products to off-gas outdoors for several days before bringing them into your home. Alternatively, avoid using vinyl shower curtains or flooring.
- Replace pressed wood shelves and other furniture with solid wood, bamboo, wicker or metal furniture.
- Use low VOC paint and varnishes for indoor surfaces.
- Switch to green, low-VOC cleaning products. These products work as well as other cleaners but without the health risks.
- Increase ventilation. Open windows and doors, when possible. Have your home’s ductwork and ventilation inspected to see if renovations could increase airflow. VOC levels will be diluted if your home receives a constant influx of fresh air. Good airflow also keeps humidity levels down. Fewer VOCs will be emitted when the air is dry and cool.
For more information about making your home environment healthier and more comfortable, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling. Located in Portland, we’ve been serving the area since 1976.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about indoor air quality and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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