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High VOC levels in home: your experiences

We have been experiencing indoor type allergy symptoms since moving into our home of 3 years.

 

Since we also moved to a new region, we just considered the "allergies" to be related to the outdoor allergens making their way to the indoors. But trying to figure this out, we measured our indoor air quality. We are measuring high VOC levels and elevated formaldehyde. 

 

An environmental guy came to our house. We do not have a Lumber Liquidator Floor problem or carpet problem or HVAC problem but he cannot locate the source. (Also no mold) Our house was almost completely repainted with Sherwin Williams interior latex that does not say low VOC. We are thinking this might be the source.

 

Apparently one cannot just paint over a VOC paint to eliminate the problem. I guess we will open windows when we can and use air purifier. So far we are looking at a model by Austin, Airpure C600 or NuWave Smart Air Purifier. All are in the $600-900 range.

 

Some sources say that VOC discipate over several months others say it could take years. Any experiences with this?

 

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences

[ Edited ]

What is VOC?

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences

 

  • Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are common chemical compounds that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature, meaning they evaporate at high rates inside. Paints, varnishes, and waxes all have volatile organic compounds, which, as its name implies, can be harmful. Though not considered extremely dangerous, coming in contact with VOCs can cause headaches, nose and throat irritation, or fatigue.

    1.  

 

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences

When we purchased our home in 1999  we repainted all of our rooms with Mythic paint that contained no VOC's.   I'm sure the rooms had previously been painted with regular interior paint.

 

Although we weren't having any allergic reactions we just wanted to paint with a safer type of paint.  It worked out quite well because in 2003 we purchased our bird and felt that using a no VOC paint made for a safer environment for him.

 

Although Mythic paint is no longer being made we have now switched to Benjamin Moore paint which does not contain any VOC's.  It is more expensive than other lesser quality paints but we are happy to pay the difference in order to have a less toxic environment.  

 

I do believe that VOC's can stay in the environment for quite a while but I'm not sure if anyone really can say for how long.  

 

I think you are doing right in purchasing an air purifier.  We have three of them in our home and use them throughout the day especially during the winter months when we can't open our windows and doors.

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences

 @granddi , @J Town Girl 

I'd never heard of any of this.

VOC's. How do you measure them?

And how do you determine to what level a voc is in a product like paint and others. Does it say?

"If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew. Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains? can you paint with all the colors of the wind?"
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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences


@granddi wrote:

We have been experiencing indoor type allergy symptoms since moving into our home of 3 years.

 

Since we also moved to a new region, we just considered the "allergies" to be related to the outdoor allergens making their way to the indoors. But trying to figure this out, we measured our indoor air quality. We are measuring high VOC levels and elevated formaldehyde. 

 

An environmental guy came to our house. We do not have a Lumber Liquidator Floor problem or carpet problem or HVAC problem but he cannot locate the source. (Also no mold) Our house was almost completely repainted with Sherwin Williams interior latex that does not say low VOC. We are thinking this might be the source.

 

Apparently one cannot just paint over a VOC paint to eliminate the problem. I guess we will open windows when we can and use air purifier. So far we are looking at a model by Austin, Airpure C600 or NuWave Smart Air Purifier. All are in the $600-900 range.

 

Some sources say that VOC discipate over several months others say it could take years. Any experiences with this?

 


@granddi 

You might get a whole lot of responses if you had taken this to Community Chat.  

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences

Generally speaking, latex paints are the least of your troubles. Things like foam cushions on furniture can often emit VOCs for a while if you bought new furniture recently. Foam cushions are the most common culprits for high VOCs in most homes these days. Most VOCs are more nuisance than anything and will dissipate over time.

 

My old neighbor created a much bigger problem with VOC's. We used to have a telephone pole storage lot about five miles from his house. They had a dipping pit there where they'd dip the base of the newly arrived poles in creosote before stacking them. Creosote was a widely used wood preservative at the time but is now considered a carcinogen. When new poles would come in they'd fill up the pit and dip the new poles. He had a friend who worked there and they'd call him when they were done and he'd head over with two fifty-five gallon barrels and load them up with the leftover creosote that he would then paint on all of the exposed wood in his basement and garage to prevent it from having rot or insect issues. If you walked into his house the smell of creosote was very strong all year round. He and his wife both later died of cancer and the house was bought by a new young couple who had to paint over every surface he'd ever touched with the creosote to try and seal it in and they also had to add a very expensive ventilation system to the basement to get the levels of VOC down to a safer range. 

 

I gather from your post that your house is just three years old. If so, it should have been built with modern materials so the odds of it having anything overly hazardous is pretty low. Spray foam insulation can put off VOCs for a while and even if your home used conventional insulation instead of spray foam, it's often used as a fire block where pipes and wiring move from one floor to another. Modern building codes require fire blocking in any penetrations from one floor to another to slow the spread of a fire should one start and spray foam is the material of choice for many contractors. If I was guessing, I'd say foam of some sort, furniture cushions, foam insulation, or foam used as a fire block were the most likely culprits. If so, then the levels should decline gradually until they're gone.

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences

Drywall and joint compound can pollute with sulfur  , mercury and VOC's

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences


@on the bay wrote:

 @granddi , @J Town Girl 

I'd never heard of any of this.

VOC's. How do you measure them?

And how do you determine to what level a voc is in a product like paint and others. Does it say?


 

To answer your question, I'm really not sure how you would measure the VOC content in a room.  We just started reading up on making your home a less toxic environment and came upon the VOC issues.  

 

As far as I know paint and other products do not give any information on the amount of VOC contained within an item or used in making a product.  

 

It's difficult to make your home a completely safe area but all you can do is just try to find products that are safer.  Having a pet bird makes you more aware and forces you to make better choices.  

 

Once we got our bird I got rid of all of my non-stick kitchen cookware and replaced them with stainless steel.   It took quite a bit of searching but I did manage to find a few small kitchen appliances like my countertop convection oven that was not lined with a non-stick coating.  The few small appliances that I have that are non-stick like my waffle iron and air fryer I do not use them in the house.  We have our patio set up so that I can use them outside away from my diningroom where our bird lives.  

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Re: High VOC levels in home: your experiences

We purchased an item from Amazon called Air Quality Detector for about $90.00 easy to use. It detects VOC, formaldehyde, particulate matter (pet dander, dust). 

 

Never gave any thoughts to indoor air quality until now.

 

We feel like the source of our high readings is Paint since almost the entire house was painted within the last 36 months. Since it is an old house, oil based was used on trim and cabinets . 

 

Apparently, the solution is first to remove the polution source. Since that is not possible, the second option is air circulation, ventalation. The big box air cleaners are in the $800 up range that cover 1000 sq ft and are on rollers. The environmental guy said don't let the HVAC sell us some sort of all on for the unit.