If you’re reading this whilst surrounded by green plants, perhaps in a garden lined with trees along the periphery, with water trickling through small channels irrigating the flora, then you’re in nature’s good hands!
If, however, you’ve gotten yourself within the clutches of a comfortable, closed, air-conditioned room, you need to take a hard look at your surroundings – partitioned walls spruced up in sections perhaps by layers of fancy wallpaper, lavish wood,
plastic or synthetic furniture, stationery items and stylish table-top accessories, plush wall-to-wall carpeting, bright piercing lights, an LED TV that’s permanently on, and a bunch of other expensive-looking gadgets strewn around randomly.
Did it occur to you that each of this comfort-providing, visually appealing, high-tech bits and pieces of worldly conveniences could actually be affecting the air you breathe?
In our last blog post, we referred to volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, a term that needs a further explanation not only because of its abundance in indoor air but also because of the adverse effect its presence can have on human health.
What are VOCs?
Volatile Organic Compounds are organic compounds that evaporate relatively easily at room temperature. In addition to carbon, VOCs contain elements such as hydrogen, sulfur, fluorine, bromine, chlorine, and nitrogen.
Paint thinners, mosquito and moth repellents, wood preservatives, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, stationery or office equipment such as adhesives, permanent markers, and hobby supplies, they all emit vapors or gases that are classified as VOCs.
Building materials and furnishings, such as carpets, vinyl flooring, and composite wood products, and foam and upholstery also emit VOCs to varying degrees.
Even electronic gadgets such as computer monitors and laser printers emit VOCs.
If you work in an in an automotive center or chemical manufacturing plant, you could be exposed to the many harmful VOCs emitted by fuels, hydraulic fluids, pharmaceuticals, refrigerants, and industrial solvents.
Health effects of VOCs
VOCs can be extremely toxic depending on the level and duration of exposure.
While short-term exposure to VOCs can cause allergic reactions, dizziness, headaches, and nausea, long-term exposure can cause cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system.
According to the National Toxicology Program’s Fourteenth Report on Carcinogens, Benzene (tobacco smoke, paint supplies, and stored fuels) and Formaldehyde (composite wood products) have been classified as human carcinogens.
Both these compounds may be quietly present in the air you’re breathing and may cause irreversible damage to your health.
People with conditions such as asthma, young children, and elderly people are particularly susceptible to VOCs.
VOCs and Indoor Air
As stated in our previous blog post, the chemical composition of indoor air can be many times more harmful than outdoor air.
While most man-made indoor air purifiers are able to remove particulate matter from the air in your office space, they cannot effectively remove or eliminate the presence of VOCs.
This is essential because VOCs are present in gaseous or vapor form in the air you breathe.
And since it’s virtually impossible to remove every item from your office that emits VOCs, your best course of action is to reduce your exposure to it.
So what’s the best way to do this? Let’s consider a few options.
- Increase air circulation and ventilation in your office space. This may result in loss of cooling in your environment, but it will prevent the build-up of VOCs.
- Avoid using materials and equipment that emit VOCs. Check this list of VOC-emitting items to know which ones to avoid.
- Avoid unnecessary chemicals, such as perfumed products.
- Increase the amount of fresh air in your room. This may not be a feasible option though if the outdoor air is itself polluted.
- Add a bunch of indoor plants or a green wall. This is an excellent option for plant roots and their microorganisms are able to absorb the toxic indoor air pollutants and convert them into new plant tissue. Not only does this help remove VOCs from your room, but it also helps your indoor plants grow.
You’ll need a helping hand to set up green walls and ensure that the system is largely self-sustaining. The benefits of it, though, are that you’ll have fewer VOCs in the air and your space will look more natural, more inviting, more invigorating! Look out for more on how indoor plants can positively impact the way you live and work.
Talk to us today to find out how we can retrofit your spaces with lush green plants. Remove harmful volatile toxins from the air with natural air purifiers.