Protecting Your Family From VOCs
Volatile organic chemicals, also called VOCs, evaporate or off-gas at room temperature from some materials, including air fresheners, perfumes, the glues in particle board, paints, varnishes, cleaners, carpets, and many other common household items. These chemicals lower your Houston, Texas, home’s indoor air quality, which can cause sinus problems, eye irritation, headaches, asthma, and even cancer. Some of the most common volatile organic chemicals are formaldehyde, acetone, xylene, toluene, and benzene. You can protect your family from VOCs by installing ventilation, adding houseplants, avoiding products with VOCs, and using natural cleaners and air fresheners.
Without enough ventilation, volatile organic chemicals build up over time, especially in newer homes with good insulation. A heat recovery or energy recovery ventilator removes stale indoor air from your home and replaces it with fresh air. It also works like a heat pump to heat or cool fresh air before it enters your home, saving energy. You should also install exhaust fans in your bathrooms and kitchen. They’ll help you get rid of excess moisture from cooking and showering as well as VOCs. You should also paint or use solvents outside. If you can’t go outside, open doors and windows.
Many inexpensive, attractive houseplants can absorb harmful VOCs. Philodendrons can absorb formaldehyde, and they’re available in climbing or nonclimbing varieties. Chinese evergreens can absorb many toxins, including formaldehyde and xylene, and they have beautiful silver leaves with green spots. Chrysanthemums are pretty flowers that can absorb benzene and many of the other VOCs in paint, and aloe or aloe vera can filter out formaldehyde and benzene. The gel inside aloe is also great for dry skin, cuts, and burns.
However, you shouldn’t keep several plants in the same room because they could increase your home’s humidity and encourage mold growth. Mold can cause many of the same health problems as volatile organic chemicals, like sinus problems or asthma.
Avoiding Products With VOCs
Store particle board, fuel, cleaners, pesticides, paint, paint thinners, and similar materials in a detached shed or garage to protect your family from VOCs. You should also use a shed or garage to store tools like lawn mowers, chainsaws, and leaf blowers. Also, make sure you throw away old plastic containers and packaging immediately.
When you buy furniture, look for a floor model that’s had a chance to release VOCs in the store instead of your home. Floor models can be less expensive as well. If you have particle board furniture, cover it with a non-toxic sealant. There’s no way to avoid harmful volatile organic chemicals completely, but you can keep most of them away from your family.
Using Natural Cleaners and Air Fresheners
Commercial cleaners and air fresheners are filled with VOCs, and in most states, manufacturers don’t have to list the ingredients in these products. Air fresheners, in particular, can stay in the air for a long time, and many people can’t stand their smell. If people make sudden excuses to leave your home often, you might need to switch air fresheners or cleaners.
Herbs and flowers from your garden make excellent potpourri, and you can simmer cinnamon sticks, orange slices, apple peels, or cloves on your stove. Natural essential oils are popular, but you should make sure you’re not allergic to eucalyptus or other plants. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to some water to fight mold and mildew and disinfect your bathroom. Olive oil with some lemon juice makes a wonderful natural wood polish, and water with baking soda is a great cleaner. If you keep smelling a chemical in your home and you can’t get rid of the odor, you could have trouble with VOCs.
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