Barnakl air appendix
You breathe over 11,000 liters of air daily, so it's essential to ensure you breathe clean air for your health and wellness. By taking the proper steps and filtering your home air, you protect yourself and your family from harmful toxins, particulates, and air-born pollutants.
This appendix was created to provide information about the various chemicals that can affect the air quality in your home. While no at-home air quality standards exist, many of these chemicals have been linked to adverse health conditions. Despite this, some of these chemicals may still be present in the air at levels recommended by the EPA. It is essential to stay informed and aware of the risks associated with these pollutants and to take steps to minimize their presence in your air.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
What is a VOC?
Volatile organic compounds are compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility. Many VOCs are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. VOCs typically are industrial solvents, such as trichloroethylene; fuel oxygenates, such as methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE); or by-products produced by chlorination in water treatment, such as chloroform. VOCs are often components of petroleum fuels, hydraulic fluids, paint thinners, and dry cleaning agents. VOCs are common ground-water contaminants.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.
Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.
EPA's Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Additional TEAM studies indicate that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.
What are the classifications of VOCs?
When discussing indoor environments, all organic chemical compounds that can volatize under normal indoor atmospheric conditions of temperature and pressure are VOCs. While the demarcation line between the Very Volatile Organic Compound (VVOC), Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and Semivolatile Organic Compound (SVOC) classifications (see table above) is somewhat arbitrary, it does show the wide range of volatility among organic compounds.The three classifications are all important to indoor air, and are all considered to fall within the broad definition of indoor volatile organic compounds. Other than volatility (or boiling point) no other criteria are used to define VOCs indoors.
Can you tell me the difference between a VVOC’s, VOCs and semi VOCs?
VOCs are sometimes categorized by the ease they will be emitted. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes indoor organic pollutants as:
- Very volatile organic compounds (VVOCs)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs)
The higher the volatility (lower the boiling point), the more likely the compound will be emitted from a product or surface into the air. Very volatile organic compounds are so volatile that they are difficult to measure and are found almost entirely as gases in the air rather than in materials or on surfaces. The least volatile compounds found in air constitute a far smaller fraction of the total present indoors while the majority will be in solids or liquids that contain them or on surfaces including dust, furnishings and building materials.
Where do VOCs come from?
Household products, including:
- paints, paint strippers and other solvents
- wood preservatives
- aerosol sprays
- cleansers and disinfectants
- moth repellents and air fresheners
- stored fuels and automotive products
- hobby supplies
- dry-cleaned clothing
Other products, including:
- building materials and furnishings
- office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
- graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.
VOCs in your air
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas with a strong odor. It is commonly used in a variety of industries such as construction, automotive, and manufacturing, and is often found in products such as paints, adhesives, and cleaning products. Formaldehyde is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and can have adverse health effects when inhaled in high concentrations.
What is Benzene?
Benzene is a colorless and highly flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It is a naturally occurring compound, but is also produced commercially and used in the production of a variety of products, such as plastics, resins, and detergents. Benzene is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and can have adverse health effects when inhaled in high concentrations.
What is Toluene?
Toluene is a clear, colorless liquid which becomes a vapor when exposed to air at room temperature. Toluene vapor has a sharp or sweet odor, which is a sign of exposure.
Toluene is typically used in a mixture with other solvents and chemicals such as paint pigments. Products that may contain toluene-such as paint, metal cleaners and adhesives-are used in many industries and can be found in many workplaces. Gasoline and other fuels also contain toluene. Workers using toluene-containing paints, varnishes, shellac, nail polish, glues and adhesives, rust preventives or printing inks may be exposed to toluene.
What is Xylene?
Xylene (dimethylbenzene) is an aromatic hydrocarbon with three isomers (p-xylene, m-xylene, and o-xylene), which differ in the positions of the two methyl groups around the benzene ring. Indoor concentrations of xylenes are generally higher than outdoor concentrations. The terms xylene and xylenes can be used interchangeably.
In Canadian homes the indoor xylene concentrations are at least 3-fold greater than outdoor concentrations, indicating a predominance of indoor sources. Evaporative emissions from items stored in a garage, including cars, gas-powered equipment, and gasoline containers are an important source of xylenes indoors. Some building and renovation products, such as caulking, coatings and stains, as well as smoking in the home can also contribute to indoor xylene concentrations. Xylenes have been identified internationally in several consumer products (including air fresheners); however, there is no information on the possible contribution of these products to indoor xylene concentrations in Canada.
What is Perchloroethylene?
Tetrachloroethene is a manufactured chemical that is widely used in the dry-cleaning of fabrics, including clothes. It is also used for degreasing metal parts and in manufacturing other chemicals. Tetrachloroethene is found in consumer products, including some paint and spot removers, water repellents, brake and wood cleaners, glues, and suede protectors. Other names for tetrachloroethene include PERC, tetrachloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and PCE. PERC is a commonly used name and will be used in the rest of the fact sheet.
PERC is a nonflammable, colorless liquid at room temperature. It readily evaporates into air and has an ether-like odor. Because most people stop noticing the odor of PERC in air after a short time, odor is not a reliable warning signal of PERC exposure.
People may be exposed to PERC in air, water, and food. Exposure can also occur when PERC or material containing PERC (for example, soil) gets on the skin. For most people, almost all exposure is from PERC in air.
What is Butyl Acetate?
Butyl acetate is a colorless, volatile liquid with a sweet, fruity odor. It is a common solvent used in the manufacture of a variety of products, including lacquers, printing inks, and adhesives. Butyl acetate is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and can have adverse health effects when inhaled in high concentrations.
What is Acetic Acid?
Acetic acid is also known as ethanoic acid, ethylic acid, vinegar acid, and methane carboxylic acid; it has the chemical formula of CH3COOH. Acetic acid is a byproduct of fermentation, and gives vinegar its characteristic odor. Vinegar is about 4-6% acetic acid in water. More concentrated solutions can be found in laboratory use, and pure acetic acid containing only traces of water is known as glacial acetic acid.
Acetic acid is the 33rd highest volume chemical produced in the United States. Acetic acid is used in the manufacture of acetic anhydride, cellulose acetate, vinyl acetate monomer, acetic esters, chloracetic acid, plastics, dyes, insecticides, photographic chemicals, and rubber. Other commercial uses include the manufacture of vitamins, antibiotics, hormones, and organic chemicals, and as a food additive
What is Ozone?
Ozone is a colorless gas with a pungent odor. It is a naturally occurring molecule that is formed when oxygen molecules are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It is also produced when natural gas or gasoline are burned or when chemical solvents are used. Ozone is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and can have adverse health effects when inhaled in high concentrations.
What is Ethylene Glycol?
Ethylene glycol is Clear, colorless, syrupy (viscous) liquid at room temperature.Ethylene glycol is a useful industrial compound found in many consumer products. Examples include antifreeze, hydraulic brake fluids, some stamp pad inks, ballpoint pens, solvents, paints, plastics, films, and cosmetics. Ethylene glycol can release into indoor air as a liquid spray (aerosol), vapor, or mist. Ethylene glycol is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and can have adverse health effects when inhaled in high concentrations.
What is Methylene Chloride?
Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, is a colorless, volatile liquid with a sweet, chloroform-like odor. It is a common solvent used in the production of a variety of products, including aerosol products, paints, and adhesives. Methylene chloride is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and can have adverse health effects when inhaled in high concentrations.
What is Styrene?
Styrene is a colorless, volatile liquid with a sweet, gasoline-like odor. It is a common component of plastics, rubber, and resins, and is also used in the production of a variety of products, including insulation, packaging materials, and insulation. Styrene is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and can have adverse health effects when inhaled in high concentrations
Gaslighting the gas stove thing…are they really bad?
Are gas stoves a source of indoor air pollution?
Without a doubt, yes. There are two ways gas stoves pollute your home. The first is the most obvious: when they’re in use. Burning gas creates heat, which causes nitrogen and oxygen to bond among the flames. They combine to create nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, collectively known as NOx, which can irritate the lungs. But that’s not the only compound to worry about. Cooking with gas can also emit carbon monoxide, particulate matter and even formaldehyde. Those all have various deleterious health impacts, and can affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
There’s probably a more insidious form of pollution emanating from your stove. A growing body of research shows gas stoves emit toxic compounds even when not in use. Among the most worrisome is benzene, a carcinogen. A study by PSE Healthy Energy found benzene in 99% of samples it took in homes in California. Other chemicals discovered included xylene, toluene and ethylbenzene, which can also cause respiratory issues and may cause cancer as well.
How is ground level ozone formed in the home?
Ground level ozone is formed in the home when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight. Common sources of VOCs and NOx in the home include gas stoves, cleaning products, paint thinners, air fresheners, and gasoline-powered engines. When these compounds react in the presence of sunlight, they form a reaction which produces ozone.
Ground-level ozone (smog) is formed by a chemical reaction between volatile organic pollutants (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOₓ) in the presence of sunlight. Ozone concentrations can reach unhealthy levels when the weather is hot and sunny with little or no wind. Ozone at the ground level causes adverse effects on lung function and other adverse respiratory effects. It is one of the six "criteria" pollutants for which EPA has adopted National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Do gas cooking stoves create ground level ozone in the home?
The Stanford study tested gas stoves in 53 homes. All of the stoves leaked methane gas, even when turned off. These leaks equaled 76% of their total methane gas emissions. Both methane and nitrogen dioxide contribute to air pollution by forming ground-level ozone and smog. Methane is also a major greenhouse gas and worsens climate change. Notably, in this study, emissions of neither methane nor nitrogen dioxide were related to the age or the price of the gas stove.