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What are VOCs and Why It’s Important to Eliminate Them from Your Home

Posted by MikaB on June 16, 2017

volatile organic compounts

Starting in the 1970s, we began building homes and businesses with greater energy efficiency. While this was good for the environment as a whole because it decreased the use of polluting fossil fuels, in some cases it has led to worse indoor air quality because harmful emissions are trapped inside our well-insulated buildings. One contributor to poor indoor air quality is the prevalence of products containing volatile organic compounds or VOCs.

Defining Volatile Organic Compounds

All substances that contain carbon molecules are organic. Some are volatile in the sense that they easily emit gasses into the air. There are thousands of products that qualify as VOCs. Some of the most common are cleaning products and building materials.

Scientists are just beginning to study these compounds and it is not clear how many of them are dangerous, but some, for example benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and perchloroethylene, are clearly harmful to human health.

What the chemical is, the amount and length of exposure to it, all combine to determine the health danger. Individuals who are chemically sensitive, allergic, or asthmatic will also react stronger than the typical person.

Where Are VOCs Found?

We spend 90% of our time indoors. With so much time spent inside, it follows we should be conscious about what’s in our indoor environment, especially in the spaces we frequent, like our homes, offices, and schools.

Of particular concern are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases emitted at room temperature as a byproduct of certain materials, many of which are common household items and office supplies. There exist a number of VOCs, with the most-known ones including formaldehyde, pesticides, cleaning supplies, and solvents.

VOCs can have an adverse affect on human health, much like microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs), which are gasses produced by mold. Like with MVOCs, symptoms of overexposure to VOCs can include dizziness, headaches, and/or irritation to the eyes or respiratory system.

However, certain VOCs, like formaldehyde and pesticides, are known carcinogens (i.e. cancer causing). Also, unlike MVOCs, VOCs are industrially produced and are not emitted from living organisms. As such, identifying the source of VOCs and their elimination entails different processes.

Possible Sources of VOCs

There are literally thousands of products that produce VOCs. Common household products include cleaning sprays, paint, finishers, moth balls, bug spray, and air fresheners. Common workplace products include printers, copiers, permanent markers, and adhesives. Even with caps tightened and items put away, VOCs can still escape from bottles and cabinets. Here are some other examples of sources of VOCs:

  • paints
  • varnishes
  • waxes
  • cleaning and disinfecting products
  • air fresheners
  • fuels
  • degreasers
  • glues
  • markers
  • photography chemicals
  • dry cleaning solvents (commercial and home use)
  • carpet, vinyl and composite flooring
  • upholstery and foams

While we can eliminate the source of these VOCs by using these products more responsibly or throwing them away, such is not necessarily the case with building materials. Exposure to VOCs may be of particular concern in newly-constructed or remodeled buildings, as formaldehyde-based resins are commonly used in compressed wood, plywood, paneling, and subflooring. In other words, VOCs may be entirely surrounding you, as they emit from the walls, floors, and furniture of your home or office.

What Can You Do?

ventilation covers

If you suspect you have been affected by the presence of VOCs, or if you would like to limit the amount of VOCs in a new construction project or renovation, consulting a professional is a sure way to identify and mitigate your exposure.

Professionals are well-equipped to identify sources of VOCs, suggest proper venting and other solutions for your particular space, as well as distinguish the presence of VOCs from other possibly harmful air pollutants, like MVOCs.

  • Limit direct exposure: Check the products you buy to reduce that amount of VOC emitting products in your home or business. The less VOCs you live with in the form of building materials, and the less you use in the form of cleaning and craft supplies, the better.
  • Avoid leaks: Some of these chemicals can leak out, at lower levels, when stored. So don’t stockpile solvents, paints or other products. And what you do store, store in a basement or garage where you aren’t exposed every day, all day.
  • Ventilate: Swap out the indoor and outdoor air by opening doors and using fans in doorways and windows.

How Important Is It To Eliminate the Presence of VOCs?

Quite important. Due to their health risks, VOCs are on the radar of various agencies that seek to limit our everyday exposure, like the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Possible Symptoms of Short-Term Exposure

  • eye, skin or respiratory irritation
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • memory or vision difficulties
  • nausea
  • lack of coordination
  • asthma attacks

Possible Long-Term Health Consequences

  • damage to liver, kidneys or central nervous system
  • cancer

Want more information on VOCs? Need a consult on what remedial measures you can take? Contact us at Titan Environmental Services. We’re always happy to lend our expertise and lead our customers towards results-oriented solutions.TYP-CTA-Link-to-Download-Mold-101-Guide

The Top 3 Types of Mold & Where to Find Them in Your Home or Business

Posted by MikaB on May 30, 2017

3 kinds of mold in your home

We build our homes and businesses according to functionality and safety. Unfortunately, one of the elements that affects safety is something small and often hidden…mold. Mold comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Could you identify the most common types of mold and where they are found within your home or business? Most people cannot. Let’s discuss the top three kinds of mold and where to find them in your residential or commercial property.

Aspergillus

Aspergillus is an allergenic mold. It is most associated with homes in warm and humid climates, where constant dampness is hard to avoid. Here’s an interesting fact about aspergillus: it was first discovered and cataloged by Italian priest and biologist, Pier Antonio Micheli, in 1729.

This type of mold is seen all over the world, from the tropics to the Arctic. Although this type of mold is fairly common, it does not normally cause illness, except to those with weak immune systems. Aspergillus mold looks just as you would think, the greenish, grayish, slightly fuzzy growth that was on the strawberry you threw out last week!

Given the fact that this mold is most common in areas that have experienced flooding, calling professionals to assist in addressing all issues is a wise idea.

Cladosporium

Cladosporium is a black or green “pepper-like” substance that is usually found growing on the back of toilet tanks, painted surfaces and fiberglass air ducts. Ranging in color from dark green, brown, or black, this mold is well known to aggravate those with allergies. It has even been reported to cause infections.

It  is commonly found in fans and ventilation systems, a serious issue for people with asthma and other breathing conditions. It can be present in carpet, wallpaper, and mattresses, making it hard to avoid. Again, maintaining humidity is necessary to restrict the growth of this mold. Wiping off visible mold and cleaning with the right solution will help, too.

Stachybotrys Atra (also known as “black mold”)

This kind of mold is most likely to appear in areas of your home or commercial property that are warm, humid, and damp. Basements are particularly susceptible to the growth of black mold. Leaky pipes or a leak in the roof can also lead to excess moisture buildup that may go unseen, leading to mold growth.

Prevention is key, such as proper ventilation in bathrooms and using a dehumidifier in the basement. Mold resistant paint is also an option. The first step is to repair leaks and thoroughly dry areas that have been exposed to moisture. Hard surfaces can be cleaned but care should be taken to follow directions of the product you use.

For those with allergies or compromised immune systems, care has to be taken to avoid exposure as it can cause illness. Black mold can cause a variety of health problems in people who reside in buildings that contain it. Symptoms of mold exposure include: chronic fatigue or headaches, fever, eye irritation, sneezing, rashes, and chronic coughing.

Four Steps for Mold Prevention

Now that we know the three most common types of mold and how to identify them, let’s talk about how to prevent mold growth. First of all, you want to identify mold problems areas in your home:no mold sign

  1. Dry areas that have become wet immediately.
  2. Prevent extra moisture in the air by making sure that your home has proper ventilation. An example of this would be cleaning your vents frequently and running an exhaust fan while showering.
  3. Monitor the humidity in your home or commercial property. The EPA recommends that indoor humidity should be between 30 and 60 percent.
  4. Try to keep mold off of your indoor plants. A good idea for this is to add a little Taheebo tea to the water that you give your indoor plants. The oil in the tea helps to decrease mold growth in the soil.

If you suspect or know that your home or business has a mold problem, Titan Environmental Services provides professional and affordable solutions. For more information about how we can help, please contact us.

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