Saturday, April 16, 2011

Volatile Organic Compounds and the Air You Breathe

The links between sustainability, health and comfort are becoming increasingly understood and appreciated. Nowhere is this more acute than with indoor air quality. In Natural Fiber Rugs and Your Family, we discussed how non-natural fiber rugs can be dangerous for you and your family by the off-gassing of chemicals from various materials. But you may be left wondering: What exactly are the chemicals that result in dangerous indoor air quality?

What are VOCs?

They're called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), present in many paints, carpets, and rugs that we buy to perk up the interiors of our homes.

Often the 'new smell' of products we use in our homes are actually VOCs being released into the air we breathe. VOCs may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. These substances can harm human respiratory health, and make you or your loved ones more susceptible to headaches, allergies or asthma. Young children are particularly vulnerable.

Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

VOCs in Your Rugs and Carpets

Mass-produced, commercial rugs have often undergone extensive chemical treatments, including dye and bleach, before they end up on your floor. Some handmade rugs also use chemical treatments in their creation. These chemical treatments have a direct impact on your indoor air quality.

Carpets can also be culprits of poor indoor air quality, not only from the chemicals used to treat them, but also from the glues and adhesives used to stick them to the floor.

Health problems associated with indoor air quality can come on slow, resulting in inadequate preparation. Fortunately, we know more about VOCs today than ever before, and there's clear choices we can make when designing our interiors to err on the side of health, safety and comfort.

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Installing as much hard flooring as much hard flooring as you can is a way to reduce VOCs in your home. Rugs made with natural fibers can provide the comfort and warmth of carpet without the health risks. You'll be able to rest easy knowing your flooring won't negatively affect your health.

At ecoFiber, we decided early on that there's a clear link between sustainability and health and comfort. Our standards of production are based on an ethic of responsibility, which mandates choices that are good for the planet. We do not use petroleum-based fibers or chemicals. Our simple, elegant designs are not beautiful, but also sustainable and safe.

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