More and more homeowners are beginning to ask retailers, manufacturers, and contractors what VOCs (volatile organic compounds) could be in the materials, products, and furnishings they bring into their homes. But homeowners also need to understand where these products originated and how they were made, installed, and finished, since unhealthy VOCs may be incorporated at various stages and cause the indoor air quality within their home to be less than desirable, or even dangerous.
Formaldehyde is just one in a huge family of chemical compounds that are lumped under the VOC umbrella. Substances like formaldehyde raise concerns because the gasses they release can be toxic. Furthermore, VOCs are common in many other things we have in our home, such as in paints, stains, adhesives, and glues, which means many otherwise safe building materials may make indoor air quality toxic because they’re paired with them.
Consider Common Sources of Poor Indoor Air Quality
- HVAC systems appropriately vented to the outdoors will help remove unhealthy off-gassed air from a home. As homes have been sealed and tightened to be more energy-efficient, ventilation has become more important. Air purifiers can be an additional aid. Furnaces, hot water heaters, and appliances should be serviced annually, too. If they don’t work correctly, they put VOCs and unhealthy gases such as carbon monoxide into the air.
- Insulation. In the past, some options contained asbestos or fiberglass batting with formaldehyde, though neither is permitted in new construction. Some better choices include insulation from cotton (often blue-jean scraps), paper, soybeans, and milo (a grain). Some types like cellulose may be touted as safe but then are treated with unhealthy chemicals. In other cases, the problem stems from the installer not following a manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Paints and stains. Many manufacturers, including some of the larger well-known companies, are debuting low- or zero-VOC lines, such as Benjamin Moore with its Aura and Natura brands. A small but growing number of manufacturers are making paints that contain no VOCs, such as Ecos and SafeCoat. As more consumers pay attention to and favor these low- or no-VOC options, the market will most likely see an uptick in these types of products manufactured and sold.
- Flooring. The key in this category is to pay attention not just to the flooring product itself, which may pass the test, but also to the adhesives and varnishes that adhere layers of solid pre-engineered boards together. One easy choice is to go with reclaimed boards that lack these attached layers. But if a finish is used to protect them, make sure it too is a healthy one, such as a natural oil. The same guidelines also apply to certain cabinetry, walls, and beams.
- Furnishings could contain flame-retardant foam in the cushions and pillows that expel chemical gas into the home. Stain repellents can also pose a risk. Again, homeowners should check labels.
- Pesticides and household cleaning products can be another source of unhealthy chemicals, so go with nontoxic choices. Even plug-in air fresheners can release VOCs into your home.
How to Minimize the Effect of VOCs and Improve Indoor Air Quality
The good news is, VOCs usually decrease over time as they evaporate into the air, and fresh air, good ventilation, and higher temperatures can speed evaporation. Some may hang around for varying periods depending on the level of VOC composition, air, and temperature, which is why homeowners’ “behavior can make a difference.”
Consider Hiring an Expert
It’s very common for homebuyers to bring in an inspector or structural engineer to check a home’s stability and safety before they buy it, but they can also have a home health inspector or environmental investigator assess indoor air quality after the fact. When a homeowner detects a continuing bad odor or someone in the family develops respiratory problems or headaches, it’s time to call in an expert to help assess your indoor air quality. Inspections for home air quality can range from $300 to $800. Most inspectors will take air samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis. Some also conducts water safety and mold tests.
If you’re looking at buying a new home, don’t assume that sellers will disclose indoor air quality problems. Sellers may not even know they have an indoor air quality issue, or have all the information needed to know this if they didn’t make the changes that caused the issue in the first place. When in doubt, test! It may be an expense up front, but it can help a homeowner avoid a bigger financial mistake that could bring major health problems.
A+ Heating, Cooling and Electrical, can help with any indoor air quality issues you may be having in Southport or Ocean Isle NC. Call us today at 910-754-2200, or contact us now and someone will contact you as quickly as possible to answer any questions you may have about your Southport or Ocean Isle home’s indoor air quality.