What is VOC?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals with high vapor pressure emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids that people commonly use in the household. It includes different types of chemicals which can post short- and long-term ill effects on people’s health. Since they are gases, concentrations of VOCs are ten times higher inside houses and buildings which make up the indoor pollution.
Sources of VOCs
Organic chemicals that are classified as VOCs are common ingredients in many household products. These chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, and ethylene glycol among many others are unknowingly in the atmosphere of our house. These chemicals are emitted while we decorate or beautify our homes, clean our homes beautify ourselves or even when doing our hobbies. As such, this type of pollution in India comes as silent killers in the midst.
VOCs that emanate from building materials included paint, wood preservatives, varnishes and other solvents, caulks, glues, adhesives, carpet, vinyl flooring, upholstery and foam. VOCs are also present in home & personal care products such as air fresheners, cleansers and disinfectants, make up and cosmetics, aerosol sprays, moth repellents and even air fresheners. Typical home activities such as smoking, dry cleaning, cooking, doing our hobbies, burning wood also release VOCs from the things that we use. Other common VOC sources included automotive supplies like oil, gasoline, pesticide and insecticides, as well as office equipment like photocopiers and printers, correction fluids and carbon paper, and markers.
What are safe levels?
AQI or the air quality index is a measure used by government agencies to determine air quality which indicates how clean or polluted indoor air. Since, VOC’s are primarily gasses, this measure is important as it will foretell if indoor pollution is within safe levels. As AQI increases, the chances of causing adverse health effects are also high.
VOC does not only contaminate the air that we breathe. It could also contaminate the ground making our water unsafe. In lieu of which “Maximum Contaminant Levels” (MCLs) have been by governments in order to identify how that maximum amount of contamination can be tolerated before making drinking water unsafe. Based solely on human health, the Maximum Contaminant Level goals (MCLG) for each contaminant differ. For chemicals that are known as carcinogenic, the MCLG is set at zero. Note that a combination of these VOCs can have more serious health effects to people.
How to Reduce VOC contamination?
Reduce Chemical Use. The best way to reduce VOC contamination and protect your health is to limit exposure to products and materials that contain VOCs by reducing use of products that contain them. This means minimizing if not avoiding the use of aerosol consumer products that use VOCs as propellants such as air fresheners, hairsprays and insecticides. Use alternative products that do not emit VOCs. Instead of air fresheners, use oil based scented candles. Instead of hairsprays, use gels. And use water based insecticides or paints as well. It would also be prudent to use natural cleaning materials like baking soda and vinegar instead of using organic cleaning solvents which contains VOCs.
Avoid storing smelly stuff in living spaces. One way to avoid storing VOC emitting stuff in your place, you should only purchase just enough of what you need especially when it comes to paints and adhesives, etc. These products release VOCs into the air and can contaminate your living space.
However, if you no choice but to store said products in your home, you should store this products in tightly sealed containers located in places away from your living space such as in a garage or shed. If you have no storage room, it is better to dispose of these unused products than risk your home of VOC contamination.
Finally, another way to avoid storing these foul smelling chemical products is to buy instead low-VOC options of paints and furnishing. Check the labels of the products and look for warning signs or information that said products emit less VOC.
Use your nose. It’s easy to detect if you are whiffing VOCs in your home simply by smelling it. The foul or hurting scent of VOCs typically associated with paints, detergents and cleaning products can be identified by your nose and its corresponding effect on your head.
As such, you should follow your nose and make necessary adjustments if you are experiencing foul scent. For instance, if you smelling something bad, ventilate the area. If you smell that certain products like your new furnishings or carpets smell like plastic, set them outside to let the fumes off. When you want to paint your house, do so with open windows and use a fan to ventilate the room in order to dissipate the fumes. If you smell the paint or varnish that you hid, check for its seal if it’s leaking gas or place it far from your living space. Your nose is your no. 1 natural detector for VOC pollution in your home.
Use natural products like Activated Charcoal Bags and Essential Oils. If you want to clean and purify the air in your home or office, the best way to do it is to use natural products instead of chemical air fresheners. Among the products that you can use are as follows:
- Vayu Natural Air purifying Bag. This is by far the simplest, easiest, and most efficient way to freshen up your home. With its 3 layer technology, it helps reduce the harmful pollutants including VOCs, bacteria, mould and mildew, allergens and foul scents that contaminate your indoor air to make it safe and healthy for you and your family.
- Bamboo Charcoal. While Vayu Natural also uses an activated impregnated charcoal fabric for outer covering, it also worthwhile to mention that bamboo charcoal effectively filters and purify indoor air by removing moist in the air that prevent bacteria and fungi (mold) and other impurities that cause indoor air pollution.
- Houseplants. The most natural way to purify and freshen your indoor air is by putting house plants inside the home. Plants are known to purify the air we breathe by using the carbon dioxide that we exhale and converting them to oxygen that we need for breathing. Among the advisable plants to use included Boston Fern, Snake Plant, Bamboo Palm, and Lady Palm, etc.
Ventilation. Ventilation is a means of introducing ambient air into a space for regulating indoor air quality by displacing indoor pollutants including VOCs. This can be done simply by opening doors and windows and artificially by using electric fans to increase air from the outside to get in and air from the inside to get out. By circulating the air inside the room, you will be able to blow away pollutants that get trapped in a room.