You take 17,000 to 30,000 breaths per day! But what if the air around you is polluted? Even if you know the air around is bad for you, you won’t be able to simply stop breathing.
Dangerous Household Gases
Not all odors are originated equal. They are either organic or inorganic compounds. Just as they can smell nice or unpleasant, and harmless or harmful to your health. Most chemical contaminants are created inside a house, but they can also be drawn in from the outdoor air.
Chemical contaminants can be found in different sources. Most of them are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature and pervade our lives in the form of common household cleaners, cosmetics, and DIY supplies.
The term “organic” indicates that the compounds contain carbon.
If the room where you live, sleep or work is poorly ventilated and you don’t do anything to control the situation, chemical pollutants will create an environment that can harm your health.
Harmful Chemicals and Your Health
Indoor sources of VOCs:
- Sealants, coatings, and caulks
- New plastic or electronic devices
- Moth balls
- Office equipment such as copiers and printers
- Air spray fresheners and smelly products, such as shampoos, perfume, etc.
- Environmental Tobacco Smoke
- Paints, varnishes, and stains
- Cleaning products
- Carpet and vinyl flooring
- Fuels and combustion chemical
- Fabric materials & furnishing
The degree to which chemical exposure influence your health depends on how much of the chemical is in the air, how often you have contact with it, how harmful it is, your sensibility to it.
Effects can be acute
- Throat irritation
- Itchy eyes
- Nose irritation
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Asthma exacerbation
- Visual disorders
- Bad influence to liver, kidney or central nervous system
People with respiratory problems such as asthma, young children, elderly, and persons with heightened sensitivity to chemicals may be more susceptible to VOC exposure. Symptoms vary from person to person depending upon their sensitivity.
That’s why it’s very important to assess the air we breathe in and to do something to breathe cleaner air.
VOC Levels in the House
VOC levels are usually 2 to 5 times higher in indoor air than outdoor air.
Levels of VOC Exposure in indoor air vary depending on:
- the volume of air in the house
- the rate at which the VOC is off-gassed
- the building ventilation rate
- outdoor concentrations
- time spent in the affected environment
How Do I Reduce the Levels of VOCs in My Home?
The best way of reducing VOC exposure is to remove products containing VOCs or use low emitting VOC products.
What can you do:
- Remove products having high levels of VOCs
- If you wear dry-cleaned clothing, ensure the clothing does not have a chemical smell
- Buy new products containing low or no VOCs (Environmentally Preferable Purchasing)
- Open doors and windows more often, use fans
- When temperature and humidity are very high some chemicals will off gas more
- Air purifiers — look for models created to eliminate chemicals from the air.
Can Air Purifier be Used to Combat Chemicals?
Yes, but you need to choose the right model. There are many air purifiers with a wide range of prices. Be cautious about the cheap ones since they probably won’t do a good job. With air purification, you certainly get what you pay for.
Nowadays, almost all air purifiers use a Hepa filtration system to get rid of airborne pollutants and allergens like dust mites, traffic pollution, pollen, viruses, pet dander, and bacteria.
HEPA filters do a great job of trapping particles, but not the VOCs. To remove formaldehyde and other VOCs, (chemical off-gassing) you will need a device with additional technology. In order to get rid of airborne gases and chemicals, an air purifier needs to have something more than just a HEPA filter.
The only thing that will effectively adsorb these is a carbon filter. Activated carbon is carbon that has undergone some additional processing to make it better at capturing gas molecules.
Most air purifiers utilize carbon technology which acts as a sponge to absorb chemical odors and VOCs from your home indoor air. It is one of the most important filters out there.
The best air purifiers contain around a kilo or more of genuine carbon. Most cheap that are usually found in UK High Street stores contain just a token gesture of carbon. Such a small amount is absolutely negligible when it comes to actually adsorbing VOCs.
The longer the air dwells on its way through, the more fumes and gases stay into it. This way, the thicker the carbon, the longer the dwell time, the thinner the carbon, the shorter the dwell time.
A long-lasting and effective carbon filter has a deep bed of granular activated carbon and offers at least 2.5 inches of progressive diagonal filtration to increase its filtration capacity.
The speed at which the air passes through a carbon filter also very important. If the fan that sucks the fumes in is very weak to draw them all in quickly enough, then the filter itself is almost useless.
It is important to choose an air purifier that is powerful enough to drag all of the air in your room through the filter around five times an hour for it to be effective. The best air purifier for mold, VOCs, etc needs to be able to address the widest range of indoor air pollutants in your surroundings.
Don’t forget to change your filter according to the manufacturer’s replacement recommendations. Once the carbon becomes saturated, it loses all effectiveness as an air filter. You need to constantly monitor the saturation of the filter and replace it whenever needed.
My name is Stanislav Matveev. Here, on this site I write articles about an eco-friendly and healthy lifestyle. I’ve been a raw vegan since July 2015.