Choose materials with care as you plan your next home remodeling project. Today, we’ll give you some tips to help you choose materials that are safe to use in your home so your health doesn’t suffer as a result of poor indoor air quality. Some paints, types of flooring, and other household products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause short- and long-term adverse health effects for humans and animals alike. By learning a bit of information about VOCs and their negative effects on your health and the environment, you can keep your indoor air cleaner and your quality of life higher.
What are VOCs?
Volatile organic compounds are carbon-based compounds that easily evaporate at room temperature. As such, products that contain VOCs release them into the air inside your home. Some common examples of products that contain VOCs are formaldehyde, ethanol, vinyl, varnish, and adhesives. According to the EPA, VOCs are almost always more highly concentrated indoors than outdoors -- sometimes up to ten times more so. When a home is sealed (such as in the winter) and the air is stagnant, any VOCs released are trapped indoors, where they can harm those in the home.
Where are VOCs found?
Unfortunately, VOCs can be found in thousands of products (both liquids and solids), and you probably have a number of them in your home right now. Sources of VOCs include
- Paints, paint strippers, and other solvents
- House cleaners and disinfectants
- Air fresheners
- Moth repellents
- Dry cleaned clothing
- Aerosol sprays
- Wood cleaners/preservatives
- Fuels and other auto products
- Copiers and printers
- Correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
- Some building materials and furnishings
- Glues, adhesives, and permanent markers
How can VOCs affect my health?
Some of the adverse health affects of long and short-term exposure to VOCs may include
- Throat, eye, and nose irritation
- Loss of coordination
- Liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage
Control indoor air quality by reducing exposure to VOCs.
Now that you know how damaging VOCs can be to your health, you probably would like to know how to get rid of them! The obvious way is to limit or remove products in your home that contain VOCs, but in some cases that may be easier said than done. Keep these tips in mind as you remodel to minimize your exposure.
Paint is the second largest VOC-emitting source on earth, second to automobiles. (Yikes!) Fortunately, paints with low or no VOC levels are available from most major paint manufacturers. Paints are typically composed of three parts: pigment, binders, and solvents. It’s the third part that causes problems. Solvents, thinners that keep the paint in liquid form, contribute the most overall to the amount of VOCs in paint. So, when you’re shopping for the perfect paint shade, remember to make sure to it has either a low VOC level or is VOC free! Look for the Green Seal of approval, which means the paint has met strict environmental standards, contains low levels of VOCs, and doesn't contain many of the other toxic chemicals that are commonly found in paint.
Some glues and dyes used in carpeting have been known to emit VOCs. We encourage you to choose carpeting with a low-emitting VOC level. Some lower-emitting types of carpet include wool, cotton, and sisal (all natural fibers). Avoid vinyl and synthetic carpets. Look for carpeting with Green Labels as you shop for the actual carpet, the adhesive, and the carpet cushion. When installing, keep your space well ventilated. Since the VOC concentration will be at its highest when the carpet is first rolled out, consider asking your retailer to unroll the carpet and allow it to air out for a couple of days before it is brought into your home. You could also have your carpet nailed down instead of glued to avoid bringing a VOC-containing adhesive into your home.
If you prefer hardwood flooring, consider installing pre-sealed hardwood. Regular hardwood contains formaldehydes and finishes that emit VOCs. Healthier alternatives that emit little or no harmful gases include ceramic tile, linoleum, bamboo, recycled glass, and cork.
Want to remodel your Ames area home?
Contact Cyclone Contracting for all of your home remodeling needs! We would love to learn about the project you have in mind and help you draft your plan and bring it to life! If you'd like a remodeling consultation, click here. Also, be sure to download our latest eBook! It includes more information and tips to help you increase your overall indoor air quality and make your home safer and more comfortable for everyone.