Yesterday I talked about what volatile organic compounds are and where you find them. In my final post I give tips on how to limit your exposure to VOCs.

A large source of volatile organic compounds can come from the things you purchase in the grocery, department, furniture or hardware store. Here are some ways to reduce the amount of VOCs in the air space around you.

Chemicals in your home and work:

  • Reduce your use of household chemicals. Get rid of the Clorox bleach and harsh chemicals. Consider using cleaning products that do not contain VOCs such as baking soda, vinegar or borax.
  • If you have clothes dry-cleaned, air the clothes outside before bringing them into your home.
  • Buy interior paints that are solvent-free or contain very low levels of VOCs.
  • Store chemical products properly in an area not normally occupied by people, such as a garage or shed, and safely out of reach of children. Examples of these products include paints, pesticides and herbicides, glues, contact cement and solvents.

For new items consider:

  • Purchase floor models that have been allowed to off-gas in the store.
  • Buy solid wood items with low emitting finishes.
  • Use new products that contain low or no VOCs (environmentally preferable products).
  • Air out new furniture items outside for a few hours before bringing it indoors.

Ventilation and climate control can be used to reduce exposure to VOCs.

  • Increase ventilation by opening doors and windows, use fans, maximize air brought in from outside (especially when painting or putting in new carpet or cabinets).
  • If you have a choice, perform renovations when home is unoccupied or during seasons that will allow for additional ventilation.
  • Keep both the temperature and relative humidity as low as possible or comfortable. Chemicals will off-gas more under warmer conditions with high humidity.
  • For a building with a ventilation system (office or new school building, for example), running the ventilation system on full is recommended for at least one to two weeks. That means setting the system for 100 percent fresh air supply and 100 percent air exhaust. Keeping the system on full ventilation for a full month is even better. In private homes, running window fans or air conditioning for at least two to three days will help move the VOCs out of the house.

In summary, the most effective way to limit VOCs  indoors is to reduce the potential sources of VOCs. Limit the amount of chemicals you use and increase the amount of outdoor “fresh air” inside.


References to check out:

An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality-VOCs-EPA

VOCs-Health Department of Vermont

Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home-Health Department of Minnesota

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