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How to Prevent Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Exposure

by Daniel Estevao on June 16, 2017

How to Prevent VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) Exposure

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in everything from household cleaning products to plywood and other building materials. They are carbon-containing compounds that are emitted as gases from a variety of products and building materials.

According to the EPA, levels of VOCs are 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. Buildings with poor indoor air quality and high VOC levels are sometimes referred to as “sick building syndrome.”

VOC Health Effects

VOC chemicals can enter your body through breathing, touching or swallowing. This is known as “exposure.”

Differences in toxicity, volume, frequency, age, health condition, and exposure to other chemicals will determine the severity of the health effects.

Short-term exposure to high VOC levels can result in headaches, nausea, eye and respiratory irritation. Long-term exposure has been known to cause cancer and affect the liver, kidney and nervous system.

VOC Sources

  • Paint
  • Carpeting
  • Cigarrettes
  • Air Fresheners & Deodorizes
  • Cleaners & Detergents
  • Paint & Wallpaper
  • Formaldehyde (found in certain lacquers and plastics)
  • Wood Preservatives
  • Hobby Supplies
  • Pesticides
  • Building Materials
  • Office Equipment (copiers, printers, ink, etc.)
  • Arts & Crafts (glues, permanent markets, etc.)

The best way to reduce the levels of VOCs in the home is to prevent them from entering the home in the first place. Find out if your household products contain VOCs and store them in a tightly sealed container in a well-ventilated area.

VOC Solutions

VOC Source Removal

  • Only use products in the home that have low or no VOCs. Visit the National Institute of Health’s website for information on products containing VOCs.
  • If you must use a produce containing VOCs, do so outside or in a well-ventilated areas. Open windows and doors, and turn on fans.
  • If you have to store paint, crafts, and other VOC-containing materials, use a tightly sealed container and store in a secure, well-ventilated place.
  • Before disposing of unneeded VOC products, look it up to make sure that it isn’t considered a hazardous waste.
  • Allow time for building materials to off-gas in new or remodeled spaces before occupation.
  • If you
  • Always read and follow the directions.

HVAC System Maintenance

  • Regular filter cleanings or replacements (every 30-60 days)
  • Replacement of all water-stained building materials
  • No smoke indoors
  • Proper ventilation rate and air distribution
  • Schedule professional HVAC maintenance twice a year (once in the fall and once in the spring)

Increasing Ventilation

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Ventilation is extremely important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality levels.

HVAC technicians should follow the ASHRAE Standard 62-1989 to ensure that ventilation design is appropriate for a particular space.

When using VOC products inside the home, provide maximum ventilation by turning on exhaust fans and opening up doors and windows. Use a respirator or mask if you are painting.

Extra ventilation is needed in specific areas that have high concentrations of VOC products, such as garages, copy rooms, and printing facilities.

Ask your HVAC technician about heat recovery ventilators (HRVs). HRVs pull in fresh air from the outdoors while exhaust stale air from inside. The two airflows meet in the middle of the HRV system, where a heat exchanger works to minimize heating and cooling losses.

In the summer, the heat exchanger use the cold temperature from the outgoing air to cool down the incoming air. In the winter, the warm outgoing air is used to heat up the cold incoming air.  HRVs are a great way to solve ventilation and indoor air quality concerns while also maintaining high efficiency.

Air Cleaning

Air cleaners and purifiers are an effective way to limit that amount of indoor air pollutants in the home, including harmful VOCs.

Although air filters will capture larger airborne particles, they aren’t very good at filtering smaller, respirable particles.

Luckily, air cleaners are very effective and are fairly easy to install and operate.

Learn about the Air Scrubber Plus® and how this revolutionary technology can eliminate harmful pollutants around the home, such as:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Smoke
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Mold

Learn more about sick house syndrome and indoor air quality solutions here.


Call Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling for professional indoor air quality solutions, including Air Scrubber Plus.  You can reach us 24/7 at 253.292.3995!

Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

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