At Awair, we help you track the key factors that affect air quality: chemicals, dust, CO2, humidity, and temperature. The first on the list sounds a bit ambiguous–which “chemicals” are we even talking about? The chemicals in your air that we’re most interested in are commonly referred to as VOCs, and we have quite a bit to say about them…
What is a VOC, exactly?
VOCs aren’t one specific thing–VOC (volatile organic compound) is an umbrella term used to describe any organic chemical that evaporates easily at room temperature.
Why should you care?
A straightforward answer: any organic chemical that evaporates easily at room temperature is in the air you breathe. In fact, there’s a very high chance you’re breathing in VOCs right now.
VOCs can sometimes come in scary packages–like Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Acetone. While VOCs aren’t acutely toxic (they won’t poison and kill you in your sleep), there’s evidence that they cause a variety of health problems. Eczema flare-ups, allergies, asthma, and headaches have all been linked to VOCs. Long-term exposure to VOCs has also been known to contribute to organ damage and cancer.
So, where do you find VOCs?
It turns out VOCs are everywhere: in paint, cleaning supplies, common household products, adhesives–even cribs and other furniture. You may even be unintentionally increasing the number of VOCs in your air just by doing the things you love, like burning scented candles or buying your favorite products in bulk.
If it’s starting to sound like VOCs aren’t very regulated, you’re on the right track. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates VOCs in our drinking water and outdoor air, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates VOCs in the workplace. But, there is no government agency currently dedicated to protecting us from VOCs in non-industrial indoor air–our homes.
The truth is it’s impossible to completely eradicate VOCs from your home. But before you start panicking, let us help. There are plenty of quick fixes you can make to clean up the air in your home.
Getting rid of your VOCs
No need to throw out every VOC-emitting product in your house– by adopting a few new habits you can easily live with safer air. Here are a few ideas:
- Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. If you’re using a scented candle, a space heater, painting, or cleaning, crack a window. If you’re cooking, use the fan on your range hood.
- Avoid buying pressed wood furniture and consider buying at least some antique furniture, which has had plenty of time for VOCs to off-gas. You can also look for furniture with Greenguard certification.
- Be choosy about the items you purchase for your home. If you buy products in bulk, store extra products outdoors or in your garage.
- Get VOC-absorbing plants like English ivy or Boston fern. A single plant isn’t likely to make much of a dent in VOC levels — you’ll want one or two plants per 100 square feet.
- Get an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair. Everyone’s home is different, and the best way to judge your own personal levels are to measure them directly and track them over time.
Still have questions about VOCs? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org — we’d love to answer!