Ever guessed how much these scents or odors are harmful to us. No matter they smell great, refreshes our home, keep our floors clean, start our day better, make our party rocking, create an amazing aura and let us feel in the seventh heaven, but in reality, their exposure and long term effect are detrimental, carcinogenic and close to fatal. And the main culprit is the VOC (Volatile organic compounds) present in them, which has long term devastating effects on us, acts as a slow poison and kills slowly.
What are VOCs?
VOC’s are organic chemicals with a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature and tend to evaporate or sublimate because of their low boiling point. These substances are made up of a combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms and tend to vaporize at room temperature by releasing odor, which can be sensed when levels go high. These VOCs are ubiquitous and insidious and their long term effects have a serious threat on the body, soul, and health.
Where are they found?
Few VOCs are natural while others are man-made. These are used in the production of various consumer products such as methylene chloride is used in paint removers, benzene is used in gasoline & furniture polish, benzene and butadiene are used in mosquito repellents, Octanal is used in Electrical diffuser, trichloroethylene is used in floor wipes, glass cleaner & carpet stain remover, methoxy and propanol are used in carpet cleaner and so on. Thus we can consider that these VOCs are present in all with an odor such as cleaners, soaps, paints, polishes, air fresheners, cleaning bonds, adhesives, nail polish, paint, thinner, etc. Few of them are also found in the surrounding environment such as in high traffic areas, surrounding busy roads, cluttered streets, etc. Also, VOCs are released when things are burnt or lit, maybe a cigarette, a candle or even a gas stove. These VOCs are also found in older buildings in the form of Formaldehyde.
Where’s the catch and why we are unaware?
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But, it doesn’t mean if we wouldn’t eat an apple a day we are going to have a heart attack the next day. So does it mean the saying is false or a myth? No, it’s not so. It affects, in the long run, depending upon one’s immunity, body structure, eating habits, living environment, and a few other factors. But, one thing is for sure that it’s going to do the damage one day or the other if due diligence is not paid over a considerable period. The same is true for VOCs also. They don’t affect the first day, but if left unchecked for long, these VOCs are bound to enter our body through our nasal tract and settle in our lungs to prove fatal some day.
Let’s, for instance, take the case of mosquito repellents. They are a must for all homes as it’s difficult to imagine a home without it. But, did we know that VOCs as benzene, butadiene and many other human carcinogenic substances, are emitted by all mosquito coils while being used. Similarly, other consumable goods with VOCs which are persistently used have a killing impact when used for a longer period.
Research reports reveal that these VOCs enter the human body by metabolism, diffusion, and distribution in blood & fat tissues. And all this happens without our knowledge till their concentration increases substantially in our body and the symptoms start reflecting.
How VOCs could be avoided?
It’s not possible to avoid VOC’s, however, it’s exposure can be limited. VOCs could not be eliminated but can be controlled to a limited extent or better it should be avoided. Here are a few easy steps to be followed to go safe.
1) Natural Products – It’s advisable to use natural products wherever possible and feasible. It’s rather better to go for VOC-free consumables as thinners, paints, adhesives, bonds, etc.
2) Ventilated and open working areas – Exposure to VOCs can be avoided to a great extent by having ventilated homes and large working areas. Besides, exhaust fans could be installed to have better-controlled air flow.
3) Avoid In-house burning – Burning candles, grills, lamps, stoves, etc with propane should be avoided else there should be proper ventilation to limit VOC exposure.
4) Avoid Plastic materials – Plastic materials should be avoided as much as we can. Plastic should never be heated above room temperature unless it is meant for.
5) Install air quality monitor – A smart indoor air quality monitor is a must for all to detect VOC concentrations whether it’s home or office to immediately take remedial steps to control it.
The Effects of VOC Exposure
To get a headache while stuck in traffic is nothing new. Ever thought, why it happens so? Yes, you got it right, it’s because of exposure to benzene. Something similar happens after painting or polishing in an enclosed area when we started feeling nervous and light headed. All this happens because of exposure to VOCs and lead to different symptoms depending on duration of exposure. Let’s take them one by one and begin with short term symptoms of VOCs exposure. These exposures lead to
3) Visual disorders
4) Memory impairment
6) Irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract
The symptoms of high concentration VOCs and extended exposures are different and have long term health effect such as:
1) Damage to Liver, Kidney and central nervous system
2) Loss of coordination and chronic nausea
3) Chronic headaches
4) Persistent eye, nose and throat irritation
5) Cancer depending on type of VOC exposure
How to save ourselves from VOC?
It is advisable to maintain indoor air quality and install an air quality monitor to limit their exposure and keep a check on VOC concentration in house to safe guard ourselves from their harmful effects. The best remedy to save us is to avoid using things with high odour and install an air purifier to limit their toxic effects.
In nut shell, we can say that prevention is better than the cure. So, it’s better to have good air quality in nearby surroundings wherever we live. It should be tried to spend our time in safe, open and clean environment free from these VOCs and other harmful chemicals.
In addition, we should keep a check on the quality of the air we inhale, environment we live in and surrounding that envelopes us.
How to save ourselves from VOCs?
It is advisable to maintain indoor air quality and install an air quality monitor to limit their exposure and keep a check on VOC concentration in the house to safeguard ourselves from their harmful effects. The best remedy to save us is to avoid using things with high odor and install an air purifier to limit their toxic effects.
In a nutshell, we can say that prevention is better than cure. So, it’s better to have good air quality in nearby surroundings wherever we live. It should be tried to spend our time in a safe, open and clean environment free from these VOCs and other harmful chemicals. Besides, we should keep a check on the quality of the air we inhale, the environment we live in and surrounding that envelopes us.
Breathfresh Solutions, a Delhi based organisation is promoting healthier lifestyle by creating cleaner indoor air naturally and can be reached at https://breathefresh.in