Chemical & VOC Testing
Recent studies by the EPA have found many organic pollutants are 2-5x higher inside the homes than outside. Studies have also shown a similar elevation of chemical compounds in commercial buildings as well. These chemicals and VOCs come from a variety of sources such as building materials (carpeting, laminated wood), cleaning chemicals, cosmetics, paints, etc.
When these chemicals are found in elevated they can negatively affect our health. This has led to a new interest in how our homes and buildings may affect our health. At the forefront of this research is VOC (volatile organic compound) testing. This type diagnostic tool allows us to determine the type and quantity of VOCs within a home or building.
When is VOC testing appropriate?
VOC testing is helpful in two primary situations:
- Undesirable indoor odors, chemical fumes or other suspicious smells. Often this occurs when a customer has recently installed a new material such as cabinets or carpeting.
- Unexplained health effects commensurate with VOC exposure. According to the EPA this includes eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system. VOC testing is most helpful when a suspicious source exists, such as carpeting, heavily varnished cabinetry, etc.
What solutions are available if a building has elevated VOCs?
Addressing VOCs generally falls into two categories:
- Remove the source material. If the source material can be readily removed, such as a gas can in the garage or a cleaning compound, eliminating the source is the simplest remedy.
- Dilute the pollutant. If the source material is permanent, such as cabinetry, the dilution is the most efficient solution. The health effects of VOCs are directly correlated to the quantity of exposure. Therefore, if the source of the VOC is not easily removed, the problem can still be mitigated by improving ventilation. This is typically accomplished through fresh air intakes, HRV/ERVs and other ventilation techniques.