The health effects of VOCs

The presence of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in the air we breathe is now a recurring theme.

Pollution is increasing, our cities are getting bigger and we use much more chemical products then before. These factors lead to a slow, yet unstoppable degradation of the quality of the air we breath. Most people, however, do not pay much attention to this subject until the first ailments appear. In most cases, doctors ascribe these symptoms to an "environmental problem". Since we all live in a closed environment every day, whether it is our home or workplace, it would be wise to take precautions to avoid unpleasant problems.

Some of the health isses caused by VOCs on humans are eye, nose and throat irritation; headache, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Some tests reealed that VOCs can are suspected to 

cause cancer in animals and humans.

Key signs or symptoms associated with VOC exposure include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnoea, nausea, vomiting, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness. Volatile organic compounds also appear to be significant risk factors for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from highly toxic to those with no known health effects. Some have a strong odor and others no odor. The extent of the health effects of VOCs on humans depends on many factors including the level, duration and place of exposure, e.g. floors, mattresses, toys, etc.

DiCE SMART aiuta a migliorare la qualità dell'aria

Common sources of VOCs:

Among the most common sources of volatile organic compounds we certainly find many products for the home, including:

  • paints, paint strippers, nail polish removers;
  • solvents such as isopropyl alcohol or acetone;
  • wood preservatives and finishes such as polyurethane (it can take months to fully cure);
  • aerosol sprays such as cooking oils and hair sprays;

  • detergents and disinfectants;
  • perfumed laundry chemicals and fabric softeners;
  • moth repellents and air fresheners;
  • stored fuels and automotive products such as a fuel oil tank used by some heating systems (especially in basements and garages);
  • hobby material, glues etc .;
  • dry-cleaned clothes or items;
  • pesticides, insect or pest control products such as ant traps or rat poisoning;
  • home furnishings containing artificial materials such as synthetic fabrics, foams, rubbers, plastics, particle board - imitation wood, laminates;
  • Household building materials such as OSB or laminated panels commonly used for siding, sub-floors and roofing, synthetic carpets and pads, synthetic flooring materials, etc .;
  • office equipment such as copiers and printers, inks etc .;
  • artisan graphics and materials, including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.

How to reduce exposure to VOCs:

Here are some useful tips and advice to reduce exposure to potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds. First of all, let's remember not to keep open containers of unused paints and similar materials inside the house. Formaldehyde, one of the best-known VOCs, is one of the few indoor air pollutants that can be easily measured. Identify and, if possible, remove the source. This is not always possible as it is often used in house construction materials such as OSB sheathing and glulam products, which can release VOCs for many months or years after construction. If exposure can't  be avoided, it can often be reduced  by using a sealant on all exposed surfaces of panels and other furnishings.

Prevent bug invasion by using natural integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for pesticides.

Increase fresh air ventilation in your home. This can be done in many ways. Opening windows is a great way to get started. Air ventilation is always important, especially in hermetically sealed and energy-efficient homes that are closed for much of the year. Also remember to increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs.

Finally, some useful recommendations:

  • Use household products according to the manufacturer's directions;
  • make sure the environment is very well ventilated when using these products;
  • throw away unused containers safely; buy only in quantities that you will use soon;
  • never mix home care products unless stated on the label.

SMART indoor sensors for air quality detection:

As you can easily guess, it is always important to have the quality of the air we breathe checked. VOCs are everywhere, it is often easy to recognize them as the sources are in front of our eyes. Cigarette smoke, for example, or anything else that burns releases harmful components into the air. These, however, are easily identifiable and we can immediately find a solution. However, when the sources are not so obvious and the compounds emitted cannot be immediately detected by humans, we need external help that can warn us before it's too late.

DiCE SMART is a Design IoT hub which, combined with our air quality sensor, represents a complete, reliable and very easy to consult solution.

In fact, DiCE SMART will make the air we breathe "visible". How?

The sensor sends constant and real-time data concerning the detected parameters via Zigbee protocol. Temperature, humidity and presence of pollutants are shown in a graph in the DiCEhome app so that they can be consulted at any time. DiCE SMART in turn, through a color scale with various shades of BLUE, shows in real time whether the air quality is good or immediate recirculation is required.

The use of the Zigbee protocol, thanks also to the mesh network, guarantees the operation of the sensor in remote areas of the house and a very long battery life.

Whether you are at home or away for work, you will know at any time if you need to intervene, thanks to a visual and audible alarm and a push notification on your smartphone.

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If you have already purchased DiCE SMART or our air quality sensor and need assistance, you can visit the dedicated support page.