What Are the Most Common Indoor Air Pollutants?

Indoor air pollutants are responsible for aggravating and even causing a wide variety of different ailments and health problems such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and allergies. Prolonged exposure can lead to even more serious forms of these ailments or others like them, so it’s important to be in the know in regards to the most common forms of indoor air pollutants.

A Look at VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
Quite a few of the most commonly found indoor air pollutants are actually volatile organic compounds (or VOCs for short). VOCs are emitted from chemical products that are used in the construction, operation, furnishing, or maintenance of different buildings. They are associated with solvents, paint, cleaners, furniture varnishes, and even certain personal care items.

The most common examples of VOCs are formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, ethanol, and benzene. Also very common are limonene, hexanal, heptanes, nonane, acetone, dodecane, and isopropanol.
According to numerous studies conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), not only are VOCs more common in everyday environments than most people realize, but that the levels found in a single area could possibly be tens of thousands of times higher than they would be in outdoor environments. The variety of different VOCs to be found is also staggeringly high with up to 50 or so different compounds sometimes found in a single sample.

Symptoms of VOC Exposure or Sensitivity
Whether or not a given person will become symptomatic when exposed to VOCs varies from case to case. After all, not everyone is going to be sensitive to the same compounds and not every environment’s VOC concentration is going to present the same way. However, common signs that there may be VOCs present in a given space include detectable chemical odors, often strong.

People who become symptomatic after being exposed to VOCs may develop irritation of the nose, throat, or eyes. They may develop issues with chronic headaches or even joint pain. Some people experience dizziness or light-headedness. It’s important to understand that if VOCs exist in high enough concentrations, they can be very toxic. They have even been shown to cause cancer with prolonged or severe exposure.

Maintaining Healthy VOC Levels
Authorities recommend that VOC levels not be allowed to exceed 0.1 ppm. Once indoor VOC levels test at 0.05ppm, then it’s time to start taking measures to reduce them. Once levels exceed 0.75 ppm, they actually exceed the legal limits allowed by OSHA, so it is always important to stay on top of things.

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