Here’s a scary thought: according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside our homes, schools and offices is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. The average person in the US tends to spend around 90 percent of their time indoors, so that’s bad news for both you and your loved ones.
Even scarier is the fact that kids tend to be more susceptible to the ill health effects associated with pollutants. That’s due to the fact that kids take in more air, relative to body size, than full-grown humans, and as a consequence, their respiratory systems tend to be more vulnerable to certain chemicals, particles and allergens. Even the fact that they’re closer to the ground is a hazard, as this means they breathe in more of those heavier airborne chemicals.
So, trick or treat — here’s a rundown on five of the most common sources of indoor pollution at home, along with some sweet tips on how to keep the scary stuff out of your house.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are unstable carbon-based compounds that readily vaporize into the air. When they enter the air, they react with other elements to produce ozone, which causes air pollution and a host of health issues including breathing problems, headache, burning, watery eyes and nausea. Some VOCs also have been linked to cancer, as well as kidney and liver damage.
Unfortunately, VOCs are emitted by, oh, almost everything. (Okay, maybe it just seems that way.) You’ll find VOCs in wide array of household products such as paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, building materials and furnishings and office equipment (such as copiers and printers). Oh, and they figure heavily in the construction of most forms of flooring, including wood laminates and carpet.
The best way to keep VOCs out of the air in your home is simply not to let them in, as they cannot be filtered out of the air the way dust and particulates can. Formaldehyde is a common source of VOCs, and is a big player in pressed-wood/particle board furniture — so make sure to choose solid wood over pressed-wood products. Choose low- or no-VOC carpets, flooring and paint whenever possible. And if you can’t avoid the addition of a new product that off-gasses VOCs (even a new stone countertop can do so), make sure to introduce as much fresh air as possible into the affected room for the first few days after it’s installed.
You may want to consider opening the window when using the printer, too, as this is a little-known source of VOC-pollution in the home.