Americans today are rapidly becoming the 'indoor generation': one in four people spend almost their entire day indoors. Spending so much time inside makes having a healthy home that much more important, especially if you or a member of your family has allergies. But the products you use to clean or even redecorate your home could be contributing to the indoor air pollution that is aggravating your allergies. There could be up to 1,000 different types of chemicals and toxins in your home, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), released into the air by your cleaning products.
Chemicals In Household Air
VOCs are substances that contain carbon and other elements that quickly evaporate and spread through the air. VOCs are in everyday items such as cleaning products, disinfectants, air fresheners, shampoo, nail polish, cosmetics, and perfumes. There could be up to as many as 900 VOC chemicals in the indoor air we breathe, while VOC levels can be up to five times higher indoors than outdoors. Even simple activities such as cooking, smoking, and using a wood stove can generate VOCs. Aside from impacting our health, VOCs can also affect the environment by contributing to the greenhouse effect and plant growth, which can devastate local wildlife.
Mold And VOCs
It's not just your cleaning products that can release various harmful VOCs into the air, such as keytones, alcohols, aldehydes, and hydrocarbons. When mold grows, it releases spores and VOCs into the air, which you and your family can inhale and absorb through the skin, which can make you sick. When you smell a musty and moldy type of odor, that's probably the VOC you can smell. VOCs can irritate the mucus membrane - the lining inside your nose, mouth, and lungs - and trigger an allergic reaction. If you smell these types of odors in your home, it's a clear sign you have mold growing, and you should take action as soon as possible: consult an inspector to have the area tested, and seek advice on your next steps.
Health Impact Of VOCs
Between 10% and 30% of the global population is affected by allergies, while around 300 million people also have asthma, often caused by indoor air pollution. VOCs can cause irate your eyes, throat, and nose, and cause skin allergies, dizziness, and nausea. People with asthma may also find their symptoms become worse. Long-term exposure to VOCs can damage the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys, and even cause certain cancers. Children, the elderly, and people with existing health conditions are particularly susceptible to VOCs.
It's virtually impossible to eliminate all VOCs from your home. However, being more aware of the products you bring into your home and removing mold can significantly reduce VOCs in your indoor air and help alleviate your allergy symptoms.