Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals that can vaporize easily and introduce gas pollutants into your home. Often released into the air from synthetic and composite materials, VOCs are usually emitted during home construction, finishing, or cleaning. VOCs can be released from a wide variety of products often found in the home, including cleaning supplies, paints and paint strippers, pesticides, building materials, carpets, caulk, varnishes, and even air fresheners.
Concentrations of VOCs are often up to 10 times higher indoors than they are outdoors, meaning that homeowners should take special care in decreasing the amount of VOCs emitted in the indoor environment. To decrease the amount of VOCs in your home, follow these steps:
- Increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs, particularly during and after painting.
- Use household products, such as cleaning solutions, according to label directions.
- Avoid storing partially-used or open containers of products containing VOCs. Only buy quantities that you will use immediately.
- Purchase solid wood items with low-emitting finishes and products and paints that contain low or no VOCs.
- Try to perform renovations when your house is unoccupied.
- Keep your home’s temperature and humidity as low as possible, while still being comfortable. Chemicals will release VOCs more readily in warmer, more humid conditions.
The risk of health effects resulting from VOC presence in your home depends on how much is in the air and how often a person breathes it in. Short-term, or acute, health effects after breathing in high levels of VOCs can include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and worsening of asthma symptoms. It’s estimated that long-term, or chronic, health effects after breathing in high levels of VOCs for a long period of time can include cancer, as well as liver and kidney damage. Those with respiratory problems and asthma may be more susceptible to VOCs-related health effects.
If you have reason to believe your home may contain a high level of VOCs, contact RTS Environmental Services, Inc. RTS Environmental has provided thousands of mold, asbestos, and indoor air quality inspections throughout the Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia region.
Mold in Your Northern Virginia Home
Mold growth is all about moisture, so it stands to reason if you live in the Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia area, which is area prone to high humidity, then the chances of your home developing a mold problem are much higher. Anything over a 55% RH level promotes mold and fungi growth. Often, heating and cooling systems will mask that there is a humidity problem, and it’s not until you actually test the room with a humidity sensor or plug in a dehumidifier that the condition is obvious.
Physical Signs of Mold:
- Mildewy or musty smells in the house can be a sign of a mold problem. The presence of this odor does not mean you have a problem, but it should prompt you to look for further signs.
- Increased or chronic allergy or respiratory problems, especially by all or most household members is a common sign that there is a problem. According to a Mayo Clinic study, almost all chronic sinus infections (we’re talking about 37 million Americans), are a result of mold.
- When levels of toxins from black mold or other fungi reach high levels, toxic poisoning can occur. Common signs include headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness.
- Signs of Mold in Your Home:
- Water pipe leaks, especially those that have gone undetected, are perfect breeding grounds for mold.
- Areas of the house that may have been damaged from flooding is a common site for mold growth.
- If your house has ever had a leaky roof, one logical place to look for signs of mold is the attic. Look for evidence of water damage or mold growth in ceilings on the upper floors.
- Use of humidifiers can raise the moisture level to a point where mold growth is encouraged. Regulate the humidity level so that it stays within a 55-60% RH range.
- A damp basement or crawl space can be a haven for mold growth and go undetected for long periods of time. Water leaks from upper sources may also make their way down and add to the problem.
- Yellowy colored stains on walls, ceilings, and carpets are a sign of excessive moisture. A green, brown or blackish color may indicate the presence of mold. A medical grade black light shone over the area will indicate a yellow glow if mold growth is present. Also look for areas that are bowing or swelling due to excess moisture. Paint peeling and loosening drywall tape are also common indicators.
- Blocked gutters can cause water to be absorbed into walls through the roof or collect at the base of the foundation.
- Signs of condensation around windows, walls or pipes, or rusting metal is a sure sign of high moisture that may lead to a mold problem.
- Warped wood is a sure sign of excess moisture. A build up could cause mold growth.
- Mold growth behind tiles in a humid bathroom is a common area for detection. The grout is porous, and once the water penetrates, dirt is trapped and encourages mold cultivation.
- If the steam from dryers or other appliances are vented indoors, this also can be a sign of a problem area. Check for indications of mold around the vent and surrounding area.
- Be on the lookout for the presence of any wet articles in the house such as rags, indoor clothes dryers or areas where there is poor ventilation.
What to Do:
When you see actual spores of mold growing, perhaps in a small area of the bathroom or shower, take immediate action before it spreads any further. You’ll need to identify the cause of the problem and check to see if it has spread to any other areas. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the area and dry completely. Any spores left behind will continue to grow once the area is exposed to any moisture.
For more information on mold growth, call RTS Environmental Services. We provide state of the art Mold & Moisture Inspections, Mold Identification, Mold Remediation, Air Quality Testing, Asbestos Inspection & Removal services in the Greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan area, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.