c

Airborne debris indoors (C) Daniel Friedman Indoor VOC's - a Building Occupant's Guide to Indoor Air Quality
     

  • VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS - CONTENTS: Guide to Sources & Remedies for Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs as Indoor Air Contaminants. Common airborne chemicals found indoors and that should be avoided (& their sources). How to Reduce Human Exposure to Indoor VOCs
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about testing, finding the source of, & removing indoor VOCs or volatile organic compounds. Here we also discuss the problem with "test and run" indoor air consultants who don't do a useful job.
  • REFERENCES

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

Guide to volatile organic compounds VOCs in indoor air:

This article explains steps to improve indoor air quality in homes, focused on the volatile organic compounds or VOCs often found indoors. These include MVOCs from mold, benzene, methylene chloride, and perchloroethylene among others.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.

Guide to Sources & Remedies for Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs as Indoor Air Contaminants

Photograph of toxic gas testing devices.

This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.

Our page top photo shows a gas detector tube test for Perchloroethylene. Odors from paints and low-VOC or zero-VOC paints are also discussed
at ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDURE.

Many organic compounds are used during construction. Others are used daily in cleaning fluids, cosmetics, and hobby materials. These include the solvents in paints, caulk, and adhesives, as well as the ingredients in hair sprays, carpet and oven cleaners, floor and furniture polishes, and pesticides.

In its TEAM study, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the average level of 12 common organic pollutants was two to five times higher in houses than outdoors, although still 1,000 times less than short-term occupational limits.

The health effects of high concentrations of VOCs vary from the highly toxic and carcinogenic to no known effect. The impact of long-term exposure at the levels found in households, however, is less well understood.

Health Effects. As with most pollutants, the health effect depends on individual sensitivities as well as the level and duration of the exposure.

Common acute symptoms from moderate levels of exposure to VOCs indoors include eye and respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment.

Effects on the nervous system from exposure to VOCs are similar to those from alcohol consumption.

Common airborne chemicals found indoors and that should be avoided

  • Benzene in indoor air. Benzene is a known human carcinogen. The main indoor sources are tobacco smoke, stored gasoline, and auto emissions from attached garages. It is also found in some adhesives, paints, furniture waxes, and detergents. Acute inhalation exposure may cause drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation, and, at high levels, unconsciousness. We discuss testing for benzene indoors
    at TOXIC GAS TEST PROCEDURES.
  • Methylene chloride in indoor air. This chemical has a mild sweet odor. In consumer products it is found in paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints, methylene chloride is known to cause cancer in animals and is considered by the EPA to be a probable human carcinogen.

    Also, methylene chloride is converted to carbon monoxide in the body and can cause symptoms associated with CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning including decreased visual, auditory, and motor functions. Avoid use if possible or use outdoors.

    "Exposure to methylene chloride occurs mostly from breathing contaminated air, but may also occur through skin contact or by drinking contaminated water. Breathing in large amounts of methylene chloride can damage the central nervous system. Contact of eyes or skin with methylene chloride can result in burns. Methylene chloride has been found in at least 882 of 1,569 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)." -- ATSDR.

    More about methylene chloride is available in the CPSC Indoor Air Pollution Book Online Copy
  • Perchloroethylene in indoor air. This is the most widely used dry- cleaning chemical. The most common effects of moderate overexposure to perchloroethylene are irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, or skin, and nervous system effects, such as dizziness, headaches, and nausea.

    If dry-cleaned clothes have a strong odor, do not accept them until they have been properly dried. At GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS & STANDARDS we discuss the human exposure limits for perchloroethylene.
  • Mold related volatile organic compounds - MVOCs in indoor air. Because indoor mold contamination can in some cases be a source of VOCs (Mold-VOCs or MVOCs),
    see MOLD ODORS, MUSTY SMELLS
    and
    see ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT INDOOR MOLD.

    At MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS we discuss the source and effects of mold related odors and MVOCs in buildings;
    also
    see MYCOTOXIN EFFECTS of MOLD EXPOSURE.

    A list of mold-related health complaints is
    at MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE and
    mold related symptoms are listed
    at MOLD RELATED ILLNESS SYMPTOMS.
  • VINYL SIDING or WINDOW PLASTIC ODORS
  • VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
  • At TOXIC GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS we discuss the exposure effects for various toxic gases.

How to Reduce Human Exposure to Indoor VOCs

Paints and coatings, adhesives, sealants, and a variety of other building products and materials produce high concentrations of VOCs when they are first applied or installed.

At these levels, even non sensitive individuals might experience symptoms such as eye and respiratory irritation. To avoid problems, new homes should be allowed to air out for at least a couple of weeks before being occupied, particularly if the weather is too cold to leave windows open. In cold weather, the home should be heated with ventilation systems run at full speed to help drive off the volatile compounds.

To limit exposure to household VOCs, the best strategy is to find alternative products. When that is not possible, carefully follow directions, use in well-ventilated areas, and do not store partially used containers in living spaces.

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

 

Continue reading at MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDURE

Suggested citation for this web page

VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

More Reading

Green link shows where you are in this article series.

...




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click to Show or Hide FAQs

Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia

Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.

Search the InspectApedia website

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Technical Reviewers & References

Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman

Click to Show or Hide Citations & References