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There’s been a lot of media attention to the negative effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in homes. However, sometimes the reports don’t adequately explain what VOCs actually are, and how the average homeowner can reduce and mitigate the effects of VOCs, and greatly improve indoor air quality in the process.

What are VOCs?

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that evaporate when at room temperature and may give off little or no odor depending on the VOC being produced. They can trigger or exacerbate health issues in people who breathe them in.

Common products producing VOCs

One of the most common products producing VOCs is paint. Many hardware stores now sell “low” or “no” VOC-containing paints, stains and solvents for use in your home. However, it’s important to know that many building materials “off-gas” these chemicals – degrading indoor air quality. There are also a number of personal care products that reduce the quality of the indoor air. Air fresheners may freshen the scent of the air, but they also increase the amount of VOCs in the room. Household cleaners and disinfectants, vehicle exhaust running in an attached garage and even cosmetics all may contribute to the level of VOCs in a home. Some studies show that VOCs indoors can be two to five times higher indoors than outdoors.

Health Risks of VOCs

Inhaling these chemicals at low levels for short or long periods of time can lead to respiratory issues, headaches and dizziness, and worsening of asthma. The worst consequences of VOC exposure include cancer, liver or kidney damage, and damage to the central nervous system.

Can I reduce the VOCs in my home

Ventilation will help improve indoor air quality; make sure to open windows frequently to maximize fresh air. Try to keep humidity levels down, either with your A/C or a whole-house dehumidifier, as products will off-gas in higher temps and higher humidity. While minimizing your use of products with VOCs is the best course, increasing the exchange of air in your home, either by natural or mechanical means, will help reduce the VOCs once they are inside your home.

For more expert advice about indoor air quality, please contact us at NisAir Air Conditioning and Heating. We’ve been serving Martin, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Indian River counties since 1973.