The ABC of VOCs

What are VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds?

VOC or volatile organic compound is the umbrella term for volatile, chemical compounds that evaporate easily and are absorbed in the air. More specifically, these are substances that you can find in paints, cleaning products, detergents, etc. 

Harmful to health

Volatile organic compounds not only harm the environment, but they also cause serious damage to our health. They enter our lungs every day because they are present all over our homes and are so easily absorbed in the air. VOCs are the main reason why indoor air is up to 5x more contaminated than outdoor air.

We will take a look below at the volatile organic compounds that are found most frequently in our homes. This is our ABC of VOCs: 

A= Acetone

Acetone is found in among other things solvents, paint and wallpaper. It can cause nose, throat and eye irritation. At higher concentrations, it can even cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and confusion.

B= Butanol

Found in heaters and fumes from candles and cigarettes. This volatile organic compound can permanently damage the eyes and can cause irritation and dryness when it comes in contact with the skin. The vapors irritate the respiratory system and also affect the central nervous system which may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Early symptoms of exposure can include tiredness and headaches.

B= Benzene

This is frequently found in tobacco smoke, glues, paints, detergents and furniture wax. At lower concentrations it can cause dizziness, heart rhythm irregularities, shaking, confusion and loss of consciousness. If you inhale benzene for a prolonged period, it can cause harmful effects to your bone marrow. This can disrupt the normal production of blood, which may cause anaemia and haemorrhage. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to relatively high concentrations of benzene can cause cancer in the organs that produce blood cells (leukaemia).

C= Carbon Disulphide

Carbon disulphide is a toxic substance at high concentrations and when inhaled for prolonged periods. It is extremely harmful and causes irritation to the skin, eyes and airways. Carbon disulphide can enter the body through the skin and can lead to serious irritation, redness, itching and inflammation. Exposure to high concentrations can harm the central nervous system.

D= Dichlorobenzene

This is found most frequently in deodorants and mothballs. It can harm the liver, kidneys and blood. Prolonged exposure to this volatile organic compound may even be carcinogenic.

E= Ethanol

This is mostly found in glass cleaners, cleaning agents, detergents and dishwasher liquids. Complaints such as coughs, dry throat and an itchy nose have been reported when people have been exposed to concentrations higher than 3000 mg/m3. At high concentrations in the air, ethanol causes extreme irritation to the eyes. Prolonged exposure to ethanol at high concentrations is carcinogenic.

F= Formaldehyde

This is often used in floor varnish, chipboard, certain types of plastics, wooden panels and pre-glued floor coverings or wallpaper. When formaldehyde is inhaled, it can cause health complaints such as irritation to the mucous membranes of the eyes and irritation to the upper respiratory tract. Prolonged exposure to formaldehyde may also cause cancer. Formaldehyde is one of the most harmful volatile organic compounds that is found in our homes.

G= Glycol

Glycol is widely used as a solvent for resins, paints, varnishes, dyes and inks. You can also find it in cleaning products, liquid soaps and cosmetics. It can damage the nervous system and the kidneys. When glycol accumulates in the body, this substance is toxic and prolonged exposure is carcinogenic.

H= Hexane

Hexane is used in the production of glues for shoes, leather products and roof coverings. This substance is also used to produce frying and grilling oils and as a cleaning agent or degreasing agent. Furthermore, it is also frequently used in the textile industry.

Chronic exposure to hexane can disrupt the nervous system. This can lead to tingling, cramps and weakening of the muscles in the limbs. In serious cases, it leads to muscle wasting, loss of coordination and vision problems. 

Volatile Organic Compounds contaminate indoor air

Naturally, the list is a little longer. To give you an idea, you can see the full list here. However, the most important lesson is that our indoor air is anything but healthy because of our daily activities and the volatile organic compounds present in the air. This has been measured, and we can say that indoor air is 5x more contaminated than outdoor air. 

The need for ventilation

Unfortunately, there is no getting around this. For instance, we cannot stop cooking or showering. However, we can do something about the effects. If we ensure that our indoor air is refreshed and that the volatile organic compounds in our air are discharged, our home will remain healthy. 

What's a better way of ventilation? Smart ventilation!

That is why we devised the Healthbox 3.0, our smart ventilation system. We call it a smart system because it constantly monitors and analyses the air inside your home. Once contamination such as volatile organic compounds is detected, the Healthbox 3.0 expels them outside and the air is replaced by lovely fresh outdoor air. 

Adapted to the people living in the house

The smart ventilation system fully adjusts the ventilation level to the people living in house. If friends or family come to visit, the Healthbox 3.0 will detect this and provide extra ventilation in the living room. If you take a shower, there will be minimal ventilation in the living room, but the system will function at maximum speed in the bathroom. When everyone is out at work, the system operates at its lowest setting. This ensures that the Healthbox 3.0 is the most energy efficient system on the market.

Complete peace of mind

You can sleep soundly at night in your home. The Healthbox 3.0 is fully automatic and provides full peace of mind. However, you remain in control of your home at all times. The accompanying app allows you to monitor the air quality in your home and it lets you control the Healthbox 3.0 if necessary.

Over 125,000 smart Renson® ventilation systems have already been installed around the world. Would you like to turn your home into a healthy home where volatile organic compounds don’t stand a chance? Talk to a Renson expert and get ventilation advice that is tailored to your home.

Nick De Landsheer
Author: Nick De Landsheer

Nick De Landsheer is a ventilation specialist with more than 25 years’ experience in the HVAC sector, working for renowned companies such as Renson. Nick played a key role in developing the C+ ventilation system. At the 2019 Batimat construction trade fair in Paris, Nick was honoured to receive the Innovation Award for the Healthbox 3.0, a smart demand-driven ventilation system using SmartConnect technology.

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