How to Get Clean Indoor Air
A guide to avoid VOCs, dangerous plastics and how to check radon levels
Volatile organic compounds are probably the commonest cause of indoor air pollution. VOCs are used in a great number of everyday household and office products. The EPA have found that homes in America have 2 to 5 times the amount of organic pollutants inside than outside. Nowadays, most products that contain VOCs can be replaced with VOC free or low VOC versions of the same product. So read the labels on thinner, paint stripper, nail polish remover, copier ink and wall coverings. If you are installing new flooring make sure the hardwood or bamboo is not glued with VOC adhesive. If it is a carpet look out for styrene backing. If you are planning to paint your house (inside or out) use a paint with a water based solvent. All the time new VOC free products are coming on the market.
New furniture is more likely to off-gas VOCs. This makes antique furniture a good green choice. The same is true of reclaimed hardwood flooring.
With VOCs and plastics in your office and home the first step to dealing with the problem is to take a detailed inventory of all the VOC containing products and all the dangerous plastics. After you have completed the inventory you can go about sourcing alternative products that are healthy for you and not polluting the indoor air. You can then start replacing the polluting products with environmentally friendly products. Until then keep all products like paints, thinners, spare copier ink in storage or in a garage, well away from the most occupied parts of the house or office. Also it is a very good idea to open the windows and let wind circulation reduce the levels of toxic VOCs and other leeched gases in the air. Sealed offices are the most likeliest places to develop 'sick building syndrome'.
After looking at products in the home and office, there are three other areas to look at: furniture, flooring and paint. These are often major contributors to VOCs levels in indoor air. Antique furniture has virtually non-existent levels of VOC. Reclaimed or antique hardwood flooring is VOC free. And many companies now produce paints with water based solvents.
Radon is colourless, odorless and tasteless; yet it is radioactive and carcinogenic. It is more dangerous than VOCs and plastics. It is naturally occuring. Consult this map to know if you live in a high concentration radon area (zones 2 and 3) in the USA.
Radon can enter your house from holes in your walls and gaps around pipes. You can test your house for radon levels with the First Alert RD1 Gas Test Kit. To find out more about the First Alert RD1 Radon Gas Test Kit click here.