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The Volatile Organic Compounds List All Building Managers Need to See

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states the concentration of organic pollutants is 2 to 5 times higher indoors than it is outdoors.

But when it comes to volatile organic compounds (VOC), that concentration is up to 10 times stronger indoors than outdoors (EPA). In other words, VOCs seriously damage the indoor air quality (IAQ) and water management of your building.

Poor IAQ translates into severe health risks, negative impacts on productivity, and quality of life issues. IAQ issues will drive occupants -- be it businesses or residents -- out of your building as well as prevent occupants from signing on. In effect, VOC will cut into your bottom-line.


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To help building managers, we’ve compiled a list of the leading 7 VOC threats:

  1. Acetone
    A highly potent, but very common, chemical product found in everyday items such as furniture polish and wallpaper. In high concentrations, it is harmful to human health.
  2. Butanal
    This is a highly volatile and hazardous substance. You will find it in popular household items such as candles and gas stoves. In residential buildings, the presence of both is certainly something that needs to be managed, if not prevented entirely.
  3. Ethanol
    From laundry detergents, glass cleaning liquid, to other cleaning agents, ethanol is both incredibly common and harmful to human health. However, property owners need these agents to clean their buildings, so getting rid of them is unrealistic.
  4. Acetic Acid
    With vinegars being the most common source for this VOC, this acid is rarely found in the concentrations necessary to affect IAQ. However, high concentrations do cause a number of health issues, including respiratory difficulties.

Poor IAQ Drives Occupants Away
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  1. Carbon Disulfide
    This is a poisonous and very dangerous VOC. It is a liquid that can penetrate drinking water and indoor air.

According to the EPA, “acute inhalation exposure” causes “nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache, mood changes, lethargy, blurred vision, delirium, and convulsions.

The risk of carbon disulfide is largely limited to work sites that use the substance as part of a production process, and not an office or residential buildings. However, for such buildings in the vicinity of a chemical production site, contamination is a serious risk.

  1. Formaldehyde
    Another very common VOC, you will find formaldehyde in a wide range of products, such as molded plastics and composite wood. If you have products with formaldehyde in your building, you must ensure they are not at risk of heating up.
  2. Methylene Chloride
    This common VOC is present in paint removers, fire retardants, aerosol products and many other everyday household items. It is unrealistic to clear residential buildings of products containing this VOC. You will need to focus on providing ventilation.

To deal with VOCs, most property managers/owners should look at a two-pronged approach: (1) to remove the substances as much as possible from the premise and (2) ensure that whatever’s left does not become a health hazard. For VOCs that impact IAQ, the central solution is to have a functional HVAC system with effective ventilation and air replacement capabilities.

AirFixture designs and installs Underfloor Air Distribution (UFAD)-based HVAC systems that prevent VOCs from harming occupant health. Read our FREE guide today to see how UFAD helps you retain and add high-value occupants to your building. 

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