Indoor air quality is always a concern for employers and facilities managers. Poor IAQ impacts the mental and physical health of building occupants. Volatile organic compounds, released into the air from both indoor and outdoor sources, also contribute to low IAQ. Understanding what VOCs are, where they come from, and how to reduce them, helps building owners, facilities managers, and other stakeholders to limit the negative effects on the health of workers and other building occupants. Let’s take a closer look at reducing VOCs.

What Are VOCs?

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. This means they evaporate quickly into the surrounding air where they can then get drawn into the lungs.

Indoors, VOCs get emitted from paint, cleaning products, solvents, and printer ink, as well as carpeting, curtains, and furniture. Outdoors, VOCs get emitted from motor vehicles and as a result of construction and manufacturing. VOCs enter through vents and spread through HVAC systems. Temperature and humidity levels can increase the release of VOCs which further impacts indoor air quality.

Harmful Effects of VOCs

The presence of high VOC levels can contribute to Sick Building Syndrome. This is a condition in which poor indoor air quality impacts the health of building occupants. Symptoms of SBS include nosebleeds, coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, and fatigue. These symptoms decrease or vanish once the person is out of the building.

VOC levels get elevated during the day when office buildings have higher occupancy. This makes the problem of SBS worse. Unhealthy work conditions lead to lower employee morale and absenteeism. There are costs related to the resulting loss of productivity. This makes the reducing VOCs critical in preventing SBS.

Reducing VOCs

While it may not be practical, or even possible, to eliminate all sources of these chemicals, there are ways of reducing VOCs.

Choose Low or No VOC Products

Use paints, cleaning products, and solvents with low or zero VOCs. Store cleaning agents and other products properly to prevent VOC emissions from getting into the air. These two recommendations are crucial in reducing VOCs in buildings.

Buy Secondhand Furniture

Consider purchasing used office furniture instead of new as off-gassing from new furniture occurs within the first few years of purchase

Increase Cleaning

Increase the cleaning of carpets, drapes, and upholstery. This has benefits in reducing VOCs as well as preventing mold from forming and spreading throughout the building.

Improve Ventilation

Poor ventilation contributes to the dissipation of VOCs in the air so better ventilation improves IAQ. Installing door vents, keeping air vents clean, and replacing HVAC filters as needed using HEPA filters lowers VOC levels. Scheduling routine inspections and maintenance of HVAC systems is also important.

How We Help

Monitor VOC levels

Continuous, real-time monitoring of indoor air quality helps identify and manage issues with VOCs before they can impact the health of building occupants. Pure Air Control’s IAQ Guard program provides 24/7 monitoring using sensors placed in zones throughout the building. Data on temperature and humidity, total volatile organic compounds (TVOC), and particulate matter get collected and monitored by trained professionals. This ensures the IAQ meets all standards set by ASHRAE, LEED, OSHA, and other organizations.

Conduct a Building Health Check

Pure Air Control’s Building Sciences Services includes a Building Health Check to evaluate indoor environmental conditions and address any issues of poor IAQ. Our Environmental Project Management program provides expert Senior Project Managers to work with facilities managers to resolve all IAQ issues quickly with as little disruption to workflow as possible.

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