Bayamon, Puerto Rico -- It’s quite common for a person to walk into a newly constructed or recently renovated home or office and comment about the “new” smell. While this “new” smell is pleasant to some, and may invoke feelings of a clean and fresh indoor environment, usually it actually means the person is being exposed to high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
These strong odors are typically due to off-gassing from new building materials, finishes and furnishings. These may include treated or engineered wood products, carpets, flooring, cabinets, paints, stains, varnishes, caulking, adhesives and other materials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes VOCs as organic chemical compounds whose composition makes it possible for them to evaporate under normal indoor atmospheric conditions of temperature and pressure. A few examples of VOCs include formaldehyde, toluene and acetone.
“While high levels of many VOCs are easily detected through smell, others, including some that could be harmful, may be undetectable without the use of air monitoring instruments or specialized air tests,” said Harry Pena, President of Zimmetry Environmental. “The ability of these chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic or known carcinogens, to those with no known health effects. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches and dizziness are common exposure complaints. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of any health effects depend on many factors, including the individual, chemical compound, level of exposure and length of time exposed. Typically, VOC levels in the indoor air will decrease over time, but just how long it will take depends on a number of factors. It’s also important to know that VOCs can be reintroduced into the indoor environment from the use of some common materials, including cleaning supplies, air fresheners, pesticides and aerosol sprays.”
To help identify VOCs and other airborne exposure risks in residential and occupational environments in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean, Zimmetry offers air testing and consulting service. If an issue is found, their professionals can help to mitigate or eliminate its presence. Zimmetry also recently sponsored an educational video about VOCs and new construction that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/edEJxyGh3Ko