What is TVOC, and What is Its Impact on Indoor Air Quality?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average human spends roughly 90% of their time indoors. However, many people are unaware that the air inside their homes is often much more polluted than the air outside.
TVOC (short for total volatile organic compounds) is often to blame for poor indoor air quality. TVOC is the summation of all volatile organic compounds found in a given volume of air.
VOCs are a large group of chemicals found in many building materials or everyday products we use in our homes.
Once these chemicals enter a home, they release or “off-gas” into the air. Offgassing is when products release particulate matter and gases that were formerly trapped in a liquid or solid form. The resulting gases are often carcinogenic (known to cause cancer) or can react with other common air components to form known carcinogens.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that homeowners can do to minimize the levels of TVOC in their homes. In this post, we will discuss some key factors that influence TVOC levels, as well as some simple steps you can take to reduce indoor air pollution.
What Are the Health Effects of VOCs?
An indoor environment with high TVOC levels can have various adverse effects on your health. Some of the most common symptoms of VOC exposure include:
- Eye, Nose, and Throat Irritation
- Nausea and Fatigue
- Nasal and Sinus Congestion
- Wheezing and Coughing
In addition to these symptoms, high levels of TVOCs can cause severe symptoms in children and adults with underlying health conditions. For example, VOCs may trigger or worsen asthma attacks in at-risk individuals. It can also cause other respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
That’s why it’s so important for homeowners to take steps to reduce indoor air pollution and lower their risk of exposure.
Where Do VOCs Come From?
First, let’s look at some of the most common sources of VOCs. There are several potential sources of VOCs in your home, including:
It’s been well-documented that homebuilders and contractors are using cheaper materials in order to cut costs these days. This is primarily due to the rising cost of building materials – particularly in cities and urban areas.
However, many builders/contractors do this without disclosing that the materials they are using contain VOCs, like Formaldehyde. This can lead to serious health problems, particularly for individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions.
According to the EPA, possible building-related sources of VOCs include:
- Painted Services
- Carpets or Synthetic Materials (such as Nylon)
- Adhesives and Paints
- Plywood and Particle Board
Home & Personal Care Products
Some of the less-talked-about sources of VOCs in the home are certain personal care and household products. Some of the most common examples of everyday items that contain VOCs include:
- Air Fresheners
- Cleaning Products
- Perfumes and Lotions
- Scented Candles
- Art Supplies
If you have any of these products in your home, you should consider replacing them with natural, VOC-free alternatives.
If your home has a mold problem, it may be releasing VOCs into the air. Mold grows in warm, humid environments (such as basements, attics, and bathrooms) and can spread quickly.
Once mold has taken hold of your home, it can release a wide range of VOCs into the air, called MVOCs. So, if mold is left untreated for long periods, it can have serious adverse effects on your health.
If you suspect your home has a mold problem, taking action immediately is important. A professional mold inspector can come to your home and assess the situation so that you can determine the best course of action.
Another common source of VOCs in your home is tobacco smoke. Whether it’s from smoking indoors or secondhand smoke entering through an open window – tobacco smoke can quickly increase your home’s TVOC levels.
Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, including VOCs and carcinogenic compounds. Unfortunately, once this smoke enters a home, it clings to fabrics and other materials.
So, even as cigarette smoke dissipates, it leaves behind unwanted residues and lingering chemicals that can impact air quality.
What Are Safe Levels of TVOC?
Experts recommend keeping indoor TVOC levels below 300 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter). To reduce your home’s exposure, you can try a number of different strategies, including:
Using Natural Consumer Products
There are a number of natural personal care and household products that can help reduce your exposure to VOCs in the home. For example, you may consider replacing air fresheners and cleaning products with more natural alternatives. Similarly, consider looking for candles made from beeswax or soy rather than paraffin.
Eliminating Mold Sources
To reduce your exposure to VOCs from mold, it’s important to eliminate the source of the problem. This may involve hiring a professional mold remediation company if you suspect a mold issue in your home. Other steps you can take include improving ventilation and humidity levels and keeping your home clean.
Ventilate Your Home
Ventilation is one of the most effective ways to reduce exposure to VOCs in your home. You can help keep TVOC levels below the recommended threshold by opening windows or installing a ventilation system. Not only can ventilation reduce your exposure to VOCs, but it can also improve the overall air quality in your home.
In order to minimize your exposure to VOCs from tobacco smoke, it’s important to limit the amount of smoking that occurs in your home. This may involve asking guests not to smoke indoors and ensuring that windows or doors remain closed while smoking occurs. Additionally, you may want to consider replacing your curtains or other upholstered furniture that has been exposed to cigarette smoke.
Do You Need to Schedule an Indoor Air Quality Test?
If you are concerned about the indoor air quality in your home, it is a good idea to schedule an indoor air quality test. GP Inspect has been offering indoor air quality testing services in Southern California for over 22 years.
Our team of certified indoor air professionals will come to your home and conduct a thorough assessment of your indoor air quality. We can then provide you with customized recommendations for improving the air quality in your home based on the results of our test.