What are VOCs?
VOCs are volatile organic compounds, an umbrella term for over 10,000 chemical compounds that may be found in your indoor air. Where do these VOCs come from? Cleaning products and personal care products often give off VOCs. Most fragrances from air fresheners and perfumes are VOCs. Although these chemicals are organic, don’t be fooled into thinking they are harmless. Some VOCs such as formaldehyde are classified as carcinogens- cancer causing substances. The health effects of VOCs depend on the type of VOC, it’s concentration, the duration of exposure, and any chemical sensitivities occupants may have.
When should I have my space tested for VOCs?
Many people test their home for VOCs when they become pregnant, or bring a new born baby home from the hospital. Others test their commercial building for VOCs after a renovation project ensure the VOCs have adequately off-gassed and dissipated. Unfortunately, you cannot accurately rely on your sense of smell to determine the level of VOCs present.
How do you test?
We have several methods for measuring volatile organic compounds, depending on the level of detail you desire. In general, the greater the specificity, the greater the cost.
One method for measuring VOCs is using a photoionization detector (PID). This is a screening tool that approximates the total volatile organic compound levels. The advantages of this method include:
- It provides immediate results
- Data can be logged and graphed over time
- Multiple rooms can be quickly and easily compared
- It does not require laboratory analysis
Despite all the advantages, there are some key disadvantages to PIDs:
- They do not identify the individual VOCs (e.g. benzene, acetone, methylene chloride, etc.)
- They are blind to formaldehyde and methane, both important gases
- Their results can only be considered approximations
For more advanced VOC testing, an air sample must be collected from the space and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Lab analysis is typically using a method called gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS). This approach does identify individual VOCs and their concentrations, however, it is more costly.
What if you find a problem?
The few other companies who perform these services may be proficient at collecting the samples, but they will likely stumble when it comes to interpreting the results. They probably won’t know the difference between 1,4 dichlorobenzene and trichloroethylene. Not only will we help interpret the results, he’ll also provide you with reasonable solutions to correct the VOC problems. He won’t try to sell you any product so you can trust the professional advice he will provide.
What does it cost?
Call our office now at (312) 920-9393 for a customized quote. We would love the opportunity to help you solve your air quality problem!