What Can One Do About VOCs?
The best thing a home owner can do is educate themselves about the wide variety of compounds that are out there. Let's face it, we are all part of one giant living experiment and we are the "lab rats."
Next, familiarize yourself with the common health effects of VOCs. But be careful, exposure to many of these items takes years to manifest into health issues (like cancer). Sourcing materials with low / no VOC content is the best way to protect yourself. Paints, stains, flooring, furniture and carpeting can all be sourced with low (to no) VOCs.
Where Do VOCs Come From?
The obvious sources would be your home's building materials, furnishings and household cleaners. It can even come from outside or from under your home in the form of "vapor intrusion" from off-gassing groundwater. Identifying all the potential sources of VOCs can be a daunting task that requires the help of a professional.
Isn't All This Regulated?
Unfortunately, no. While some standards and benchmarks are in place for certain compounds, most have none. The rate at which new chemicals are produced and work their way into our environment is staggering. Most of which have received no health studies at all. Its up to you to be informed and protect yourself.
Can You Spot the Dangers in this Home?
Of course not! The real dangers in your home can be hard to see.
(Gas fireplace, furnace, water heater, gas stove, clothes dryers, charcoal grills, wood stoves, power generators, smoking)
Airborne Lead & Mercury Vapor
(Paint on walls, window/door components, siding, furnishings, lacquers)
(Joint Compound, popcorn ceiling, pipe wrap, floor tiles, linoleum, plaster, ducts)
(House mites, insect parts/homes/feces, bacteria, pollens, molds, viruses, animal dander/secretions, protozoans, skin cells)
(Off-gassing, furniture, carpeting, upholstery, wood floors, adhesives, cleaning agents, insulation, Vapor Intrusion)
(Pesticide residue, chemicals, PCB’s, flame retardants, caustic farm products)
(Paint in general, asbestos, glues, formaldehyde, particle board, Chinese Drywall)
(Radon, ceramics & glass, older TV’s, water, natural gas, soil,)
(Cell phones, power lines, consumer electronics, CFL light bulbs, WiFi, Bluetooth)
(VOC’s like solvents & degreasers, PCE, TCE, PERC & petroleum products like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene)
Frequently Asked Questions
Many folks have (or develop) sensitivity to molds and chemicals that are immediately noticeable. Other times it takes longer as we age and our immune systems start to decline. Everyone is different. But when one room in your home gives you such immediate discomfort there almost always a hidden microorganism to blame. Better bring in a mold specialist.
Actively growing molds have a distinctive musty aroma associated with their life cycle. Picture walking into a basement and what aroma is typically associated with that environment. If you smell smoke, there’s almost always a fire. A pro would help you determine what is going on with that aroma.
It’s not unusual to have become so de-sensitized to the aromas associated with your home after living there for decades. Many times folks new to your home will notice the unusual aroma and mention it to you. You should hire a professional and investigate this further as things are not as they always seem to you.
Best way to remove odors is to remove the source. But odors are often absorbed by surrounding building materials and can be difficult to address. To address those areas can use a deodorizing treatment such as a biocide, hydroylation, ozone, etc. It just depends on the type of odor and how long it ahs been around.
A musty smell is often a sign of a larger moisture challenge. Manage the moisture and the odor often dissipates as well.