Air pollution on the street can be visible, but naked eyes can’t detect those emerging under your roof. While we’re relaxing at home, thinking that we’re staying at the safest place possible, we’re actually facing VOCs exposure and maybe risking our lives.
What do stoves and heaters have to do with that? How can such normal and functional home appliances cause such threats, and can we save ourselves from suffering health issues? Let’s find out all of that with our article below!
Stoves And Heaters & Air Pollution Issue
We spend most of our lifetime inside buildings such as our homes, workplaces, coffee shops, shopping centers, etc. The poor-ventilated environment of those infrastructures, according to researchers, has resulted in air pollutants.
The source of indoor pollutants, in this case, comes from not only the design, building materials, solvents, and paints but also our daily activities. These include us cooking and keeping ourselves warm using stoves and heaters.
The conducted research has shown that air heating and gas stove usage produces Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs for short. Long time exposure to high VOC ratings can lead to severe health issues and impact the materials we use inside buildings, decreasing their lifetime.
You may think that those harmful compounds should be found more in the outside environment. Well, they can be even 10 times higher inside than outside! That’s why learning the information below would be a wise idea!
Yes, it is super harmful, so what are VOCs in air, and what is VOC air quality? VOCs are those compounds that can be released in the forms of gasses from liquids or solids at certain boiling points. For your information, the boiling points indicate the temperatures that if liquids or solids reach, they emit gasses.
Where do VOCs come from? We are often familiar with Volatile Organic Compounds in paints, new cars, or cleaning agents. Still, a common source of Volatile Organic Compounds is cooking and daily activities.
You might be wondering what level of VOC is dangerous. Well, they can be released at different boiling points, even those at very low temperatures. It may be given off in your house for years!
From time to time, the accumulation of them in the air, plus the bad ventilation of the space, may bring about adverse Volatile Organic Compounds health effects. These can affect the central nervous system, kidney, liver, nausea, coordination loss, headaches, throat irritation, nose, eye, etc. More seriously, they can even cause cancer in humans and animals.
VOCs Effects On Environment And Human Health
Volatile Organic Compounds pollution can lead to bad effects on both the environment and our health.
VOCs emissions can impact the environment in three ways:
This so-called O3 (tropospheric ozone) results from the reaction between VOCs and nitrogen oxides. Unlike the natural stratosphere’s O3 that shields our planet from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, this ground-level smog can hinder fertilization, inhibit the production of seed, and stimulate plants’ diseases.
The process of VOCs gas release often comes along with Methane emission, a greenhouse gas. Why does this gas result in global warming? It’s because it traps heat inside the atmosphere and increases the temperatures.
Some VOCs react with rainwater and increase the water’s pH level. Then, that rainwater is distributed everywhere it sets foot, impairing the environment.
It can disturb the food chain by ruining some species’ living conditions, such as fish that can’t survive under high acidic conditions. Also, that rainwater will wash the essential nutrients away from forests and contaminate the plants around those areas.
On Human Health
We are spending up to 80 – 90% of our days under roofs, and there are VOCs around the house, as explained. That’s why VOCs health effects may be more serious than you could imagine.
Researchers assume that maybe the sick building syndrome’s main cause is the concentration of VOC indoors. People diagnosed with this disease often see themselves suffering from asthmatic symptoms, nasal and eye irritation, nausea, and headache.
Other VOCs effects on human health are a possible cause of cancer in humans and animals, damage to the central nervous system, kidney, and liver, nausea, coordination loss, headaches, throat, nose, eye irritation, etc.
The effects may vary depending on the type of compounds, the length of time, and your exposure level.
VOCs Exposure Symptoms
If you catch yourself experiencing the following signs, the chances are that they are symptoms of VOC exposure.
Throat & Nose Irritation
This is among the most common VOC exposure symptoms. You will experience stuffy nose, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. Seems like a normal cold, right?
So, how can you distinguish it? Just leave the place for a while. If all the sneezing and coughing and runny nose are gone, then you know this is not a normal cold.
Headaches & Fatigue
If one comes in contact with methylene chloride for a while, he can experience fatigue and headaches more often. This VOC is often used in aerosol spray paints, paint strippers, and adhesive removers.
Once exposed, it will come with several affections, such as breath shortness, nausea, weakness, dizziness, and headache. After a long period, you might see the conditions getting more severe to a point that damages your brain or loses your consciousness.
These volatile organic compounds emissions make asthma symptoms more alarming. The signs of anxiety, rapid breathing, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing happen more often. If there is a high concentration, one might suffer from extremely dangerous asthma attacks.
When you or your family member has asthma, it’s better to stay away from cigarette smoke, paints, perfumes, cleaning agents, burning stoves, etc. In case that is not enough, try the methods we are about to mention.
Solutions To Reduce VOCs Indoors
Prevention is better than cure. It’s always better to reduce and prevent the high concentration of these contaminants than to solve the trouble with our health afterward.
Pollutant Source Removal & Air Distribution
Knowing what causes high VOC levels and solving them to their roots will help you keep them out of your home. Here are some probable sources you can start with:
- Deal with products that have VOCs (try the website of the National Institute of Health). They can be pesticides, solvents, adhesives, paints, etc.
- Store those products in sealed containers, and keep them away from your living spaces. A well-ventilated space can help you much.
- Buy those products in quantities that you can use up as quickly as possible to reduce the headache of storing them.
- Properly dispose of or recycle your VOC products.
- Use these products where the air can circulate well and where there are no other people. You can open all the doors and windows and have your fans assist you in getting the gas outside.
- If the building is newly-built, let it take time to ventilate.
Never Allow Cigarette Smoke Indoors
You shouldn’t let anyone smoke in your house. Not only does it make the concentration worse, but it’s also not good for the smoker’s health. If necessary, let them smoke outside instead.
Smoking can contain more than 70 toxic chemicals. If you think a well-ventilated area can solve the problem. You’re wrong! It can seep into your furniture, flooring, and walls.
What if you just got a house from a smoker? Replace all the furniture, linens, filter, and everything else.
An HRV (heat recovery ventilator) in your bathroom and kitchen can better your VOC indoor air quality and increase ventilation.
Furthermore, make sure air can flow easily through every corner of your spaces, especially when there is a heater inside of your space. A special air filter can also help, or you can be mindful of opening the windows regularly.
But that is only if there is fresh air outside. When your living area is heavily polluted, we are not recommending this.
Regarding air cleaning, there are some options you can consider: air filters with a MERV rating of at least 7, ultraviolet air cleaners, portable air purification (with compatible monitors for the indoor air quality, if possible).
Add Potted Plants To The Building
Though potted plants can never beat the mentioned mechanism in removing VOC, it can help a bit. Besides, it’s only better to try all measures.
Those greeneries of Dracaena, Jade plant, or Bromeliad can effectively carry out this job and save you a great deal in preventing lung distress. They can also better people’s health and are a worthwhile investment!
Choose A Good Dry Cleaner
Having your clothes washed by the dry cleaners is a nice way for busy people to cut up on household chores after long days at work. Still, it can threaten to leave chemicals on the fabric because the cleaners haven’t removed them properly.
You should always be aware of your clothes’ smells after receiving them from your dry cleaners. If there are any chemical smells, ask the laundry to remove them for you or find another cleaner.
Stoves and heaters are some great sources of indoor VOCs you should be aware of. Inappropriate use of them could lead to high concentrations of these contaminants and may put your family in real danger. Make sure you read the content thoroughly and act before it is too late!