Having access to clean air is an essential part of physical health. Toxic Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) are some of the biggest threats to indoor air quality. VOCs are compounds with low-water solubility and high-vapor pressure, which means that they are difficult to dissolve in water and don’t tend to coagulate.
Below is everything you need to know about VOCs, including VOC classifications, specific compounds that may cause VOCs, and how to safely deal with these chemicals.
In order to more safely deal with dangerous chemicals, the World Health Organization has developed the following three VOC classifications:
- Very volatile organic compounds (VVOCs)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs)
VVOCs are the most dangerous of the three groups, as they have the lowest boiling points and can therefore turn into vapor quite easily. Additionally, these compounds can be poisonous at very low levels, and should be avoided, unless you are wearing proper protective gear.
VOCs are slightly less hazardous than VVOCs, but they are particularly common in household cleaners and are more likely to be present in your home.
Finally, SVOCs are the least dangerous of these compounds, but they can still cause harm, and they may be found in various materials as additives.
Most Common VOCs
Scientists have identified dozens of different VOCs. Below are some of the most common, listed from most dangerous to least dangerous:
- Methyl Chloride
- Vinyl Chloride
- Carbon Tetrachloride
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Carbon Disulfide
- Benzyl Alcohol
- Fire-Retardant Chemicals
Creating a VOC-Free Home
Because VOCs can be extremely dangerous, the best way to deal with them is by preventing their appearance in the first place. To do so, utilize furniture, perfumes, plastics, and fabrics that are certified to be VOC-free.
Additionally, prevent people from smoking inside your home, as cigarette and cigar smoke contain a variety of VOCs and other pollutants.
Furthermore, always follow instructions when using household cleaners and paints, and be sure to store these materials in safe, clean, dry areas. Finally, ensure that your home has plenty of ventilation, as VOCs grow more dangerous when they are concentrated and confined.
Help with Getting Rid of VOCs
Unfortunately, preventing VOCs from appearing in your home isn’t always possible. If you suspect that there are VOCs in your living space, the first step is to get outside into clean air.
Next, you should contact a professional to determine if your home does, in fact, have VOCs. Although there are tools that you can use to identify VOCs yourself, attempting to identify VOCs on your own can be quite dangerous, especially if you lack proper protective gear. For similar reasons, you may also want to have a professional reduce the VOCs for you.
Once it’s been deemed safe for you to return to your home, you will want to purchase an air purifier with activated carbon filters to help keep VOC levels down. Additionally, you may wish to seek options for improving your home’s cross-ventilation. By doing so, you will be able to protect you, your home, and your loved ones from the toxicity of VOCs.