How to manage Chemicals

Your Awair 2nd Edition(“Awair”) is equipped with a chemical sensor to give you a better sense of the presence of the most common group of indoor pollutants & chemicals, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). To ensure your readings are accurate, your Awair’s VOCs sensor has undergone several rounds of calibration and quality assurance testing. This article gives you details of how to manage chemicals with Awair.

This overview includes:

 

What are VOCs?

VOCs are a diverse group of chemicals commonly found in our homes, they are both naturally occurring and human-made. Carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ethanol, methane, benzene, and propane are all examples of VOCs--the full list includes over 300 chemicals. VOCs are often measured as a group, since they usually occur together and can be treated together.

Your Awair’s chemical reading shows the total concentration of all chemicals present in the category of VOCs. The chemicals present could fall into several categories (see below).

Types_of_Detected_VOCs.jpg

Because VOCs are such a common and prevalent indoor pollutant, exposure to them can have a variety of impacts on health and comfort. VOCs can contribute to a host of acute symptoms including headaches and skin irritation, and symptoms that develop with long term exposure, like cancer.

  • Exposure to moderate levels of VOCs can trigger allergies and asthma. They can cause nasal congestion, cough, wheezing, and pharyngitis (inflammation and soreness of the throat). Aside from respiratory symptoms, VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, conjunctival irritation (irritation of the membrane covering the eyes and inside of the eyelids), allergic skin reactions, and fatigue.
  • Higher levels of VOCs can include irritation of eyes and nasal passages, nausea and headaches, lethargy and malaise, rash, skin irritation, and eczema.
  • Long term VOC exposure effects also contribute to overworking the liver and kidneys and has been linked to cognitive impairment, personality changes, and  cancer.

 

What causes VOCs?

To manage and maintain healthy and comfortable VOC levels, it helps to know what the most common indoor VOC sources are.

Common Sources in Homes

  • Paints and protective coatings
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Building materials such as ceiling tiles, adhesives, and wall boards
  • Personal care products such as colognes, perfumes, nail polish, nail polish remover, and rubbing alcohol
  • Cleaning materials such as glass cleaner, dishwashing detergent, and laundry detergent
  • Paint stripper or adhesive remover
  • Deodorizers, moth balls, and air fresheners
  • Upholstered furniture and carpets
  • Refrigerants and fuels

External Sources: the quality of air inside of your home can be affected by the air around it. If you live on a busy street, pollutants from heavy traffic can add to VOC levels in your home. Other factors such as living near a factory or refinery, or even living in an apartment next to the building’s smoking zone can all contribute to VOC concentration.

 

What steps can I take to reduce my Chemical readings?

Ventilation: it’s important to have proper ventilation. If you are using cleaning products, adhesives, or paints it’s a good idea to open a window. Also, since VOCs slowly evaporate off of many things that will always be in your home or office, such as carpeting, it’s not a bad idea to ventilate once in a while even if you aren’t actively using products that produce VOCs.

Storage: materials that cause a lot of indoor pollution should be stored away from living and working areas. Make sure that heavy VOC contributors such as paint are stored outside of the home or tightly sealed in a garage if possible.

Air purification: air purifiers can drastically improve your air quality, especially if you have one that targets VOCs specifically. If you have an air purifier, make sure to check the filter regularly. Certain plants such as English Ivy or Boston Fern can also be helpful. Having two plants per 100 square feet can make a big difference.

Moderation: using perfumed substances, cleaning products, or other VOC contributors occasionally isn’t a bad thing. However, excessive use can contribute heavily to VOC pollution. For example, burning a scented candle once in awhile is fine. Doing it daily can contribute heavily to the pollution in your home. The same goes for many of the materials listed above such as adhesives and cleaners.

It’s impossible to avoid all VOCs and all indoor air pollution. However, by making conscious choices about ventilation, the materials and products you use, how often you use them and where you store them, you can drastically reduce the levels of VOC pollution in the air.

 

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