Puerto Rico`s Building Science Experts Identify Exposure Risks to VOCs and Other Airborne Hazards
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a diverse group of organic chemicals that are used in countless building products, furnishings and consumer products found in residential and commercial buildings. VOCs include many chemicals with familiar names, such as formaldehyde and acetone, and many others that most people have never heard of before.
VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. Common materials that may emit VOCs include some types of particle board, fiberboard, plywood, carpeting, cleaning supplies, paints, glues, adhesives, dry-cleaned clothes and aerosol cans. These are just a few of the countless products and materials that contain them.
The problem with many VOCs is exposure to elevated concentrations may have short and/or long-term adverse health effects for building occupants who breathe them. This can be a real issue indoors as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports, 'Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.' The agency also states that common signs and symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue and dizziness.
'In many circumstances, the ability of these chemical compounds to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic to those with no known health effects,' said Harry Pena, President of Zimmetry Environmental. 'Building occupant reactions depend on many factors, including the level of exposure, length of time exposed and a person's sensitivity.'
In Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean, the building science and indoor air quality (IAQ) professionals at Zimmetry Environmental provide testing services for VOCs, other chemical pollutants and a wide range of microbial contaminants that can cause indoor environmental quality issues, in addition to health and safety concerns. If test results indicate that elevated concentrations of these chemicals are present, corrective action can then be implemented to provide a healthy indoor environment.