For some a good home inspection report and walking through a home and breathing in that "just been cleaned" smell is enough to satisfy their concerns.
However, for many of us, the hidden dangers in a homes air and furnishings can be hazardous.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
VOC's are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. 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.Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.
The EPA's Office of Research and Development's "Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study" (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. TEAM studies indicated that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.
Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds
(MVOCs) are gases produced by mold. The musty odor which you might smell from mold is caused by MVOCs. These odors are actually chemicals which are produced my molds during some parts of the mold's growth cycle. Laboratory experiments have identified over 200 compounds as MVOCs. They are commonly made up of strong chemicals such as aldehydes, benzenes, tulolenes and many more. Some molds produce different MVOCs depending on conditions such as how much moisture is available and what material the mold is growing on. However MVOCs are only produced when mold is actively growing (which depends on certain conditions such as humidity, temperature, air pressure and light. MVOCs can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. MVOCs may also irritate the eyes and the mucus membranes of the nose and throat.
Undetected growing mold can cause both health and structural problems. In addition to the presence of health problems from inhalation of mold, serious structural damage can occur if mold is present. Leaky pipes, poorly working or dirty air conditioning and heating systems, and ground water penetration in basements and other damp areas are all potential sources of actively growing mold. Often this mold goes undetected because it’s growing behind drywall or underneath flooring.
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