Volatile organic compounds (or VOCs, for short) are compounds that easily become vapours or gases. They are released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. However, VOCs can also be released from a wide variety of consumer products such as glues, air fresheners, furnishings and paints.
Are you considering a new paint job for your home’s interior? If so, you’re just like millions of other Canadian homeowners who enjoy the idea of sprucing things up a bit. The only problem is that, depending on the paint you use, you could be inviting VOCs into your home. Make no mistake about it – the inhalation of volatile organic compounds is hazardous to your health.
What are the health effects that VOCs can cause?
Short-term exposure to VOCs can result in eye irritation, respiratory tract problems, headaches, dizziness, visual impairments and memory issues. Long-term exposure to VOCs can result in nausea, fatigue, coordination loss, liver damage, kidney damage and even cancer. At high concentrations, some VOCs are toxic.
What can be done to reduce the emission of VOCs when painting our homes?
One way to tell whether or not your paint contains volatile organic compounds is the smell it produces. Some people admit to liking the smell of paint. However, that scent is a sign that VOCs have entered the air. If you’re planning on painting the walls of your home, it’s wise to select paint with either a low or zero VOC content.
“Paints labelled ‘low-VOC’ should contain fewer than 50 grams per litre of volatile compounds,” explains Heather Benjamin on GreenHomeGuide.com, “Since there is no one regulatory standard, the low-VOC designation means different things depending on which body is certifying it, but 50 grams is the common bar for architectural flat paints…Most low-VOC paints are latex-based. Adding pigment to a paint base may also increase its VOC levels up to an additional 10 grams per litre.”
How important is ventilation during a paint job?
Hopefully, you read this as a trick question. It’s extremely important to keep your rooms well-ventilated while you’re painting the walls. Protecting both yourself and your family from any dangers that may be looming as a result of paint fumes should be a top priority. In addition to ventilating your home as much as possible during any paint job, try to stay out of any recently-painted room until the paint is completely dry.
Should you test your home for VOCs?
Absolutely! As mentioned, VOCs can be emitted from many household products. For that reason, there is the possibility that you and your family are being impacted health-wise. Enviro-Works Inc. proudly offers VOC Testing which employs the EPA TO-17 using GC-MS method for the determination of VOCs. This method uses active or passive sampling of air that traps the target analytes onto a multi-sorbent bed tube.
These sorbent tubes allow for fast and accurate sample collection of indoor air, fence line, stack, workplace and occupational monitoring. Laboratory processing and analysis are much quicker than cannister sampling due to far less sample preparation time. Target analytes can be customized based on your needs.