Have you heard of VOCs?
Don’t worry if you haven’t. A lot of people haven’t come across the term and it’s only recently that the acronym has become common in the paint and decorating industry. VOC stands for ‘volatile organic compound’ and refers to the airborne particles released as gasses by certain liquids or solids. This is commonly referred to as ‘off-gassing’. Smells such as newly painted walls, freshly varnished flooring and the interior of a new car all signify newness but sadly not freshness nor healthiness.
Where our furniture, bedding and textiles used to be untreated woods and natural fibres, we are now increasingly exposed to flame-retardants, polyurethanes, formaldehyde, solvents, acetones…..the list is endless and so many of these are already known carcinogens or are linked to serious health problems.
When we flop down onto our couch, kick our slippers off onto the rug or grab a book from the convenient flat-pack shelving unit, we are unwittingly breathing in chemicals that are silently off-gassing each day. Some do smell but too often they are odourless so it is not surprising that we are unaware of the potential cocktail of particles we are breathing in, in a daily basis.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) for building occupants has received increasing attention world-wide over the last few decades. It appears that “concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.” say the Environmental Protection Agency in the US. Sadly it is no better here in the UK as we are one of the top five countries in the world that have the highest prevalence of clinical asthma that seems to be being driven by our poor home environments.
There are health risks associated with dampness, mould and tobacco smoke and air pollutants released from cooking and heating. Even if you are fortunate enough to be able to eliminate the first three from your list it would appear there is a dizzying amount of VOCs in all of our households at any one given time.
So what can we do about it? We cannot eliminate them completely but we can explore ways to reduce them.
Over the next few weeks and months I will be sharing tips on how best to improve your indoor environment so that you may achieve a beautiful healthy home.