Trapped With Your VOC's?

October means chilly mornings, ripe pumpkins, and Halloween costumes – and spending more time indoors. As the weather cools down and autumn sets in, we spend less time outside, and more time inside the house. We even keep the windows and doors closed as much as possible, to trap in warm air and save on heating bills. Unfortunately, as cozy as fall can be, many of us are trapped inside homes with less-than-great air quality. The EPA estimates levels of some common pollutants to be 2-5 times higher inside homes than out. So, as you're settling in to enjoy fall, take some time to analyze the air quality inside your home.

VOC's are a major concern for indoor air pollution. If you've ever shopped for an air purifier, you've probably heard of these mysterious chemicals – but just what are they? This article is going to tell you a little bit about VOC's: what they are, where they come from, and how to get rid of them.

What is a VOC, anyway?

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. The "organic" part means they contain carbon, and "volatile" means they evaporate easily at room temperature. VOC's are chemicals like benzene, toluene, methylene, chloride, formaldehyde, and many others. According to the EPA, exposure to VOC's can cause symptoms like nose and throat discomfort, allergic skin reactions, headaches, asthma attacks, and nausea. In high enough exposures, they can cause more serious health problems.

Where do VOC's come from?

VOC's are found in a wide variety of household products. Just look under the kitchen or bathroom sink and you will probably find many substances which emit some kind of VOC. VOC's are found in products as ubiquitous as paints, varnishes, cleaning supplies, new carpets and furniture, fragrances and air fresheners, glues and adhesives, disinfectants, and other sources. Now you can see why VOC's are found in such greater concentrations inside the house.

So how can VOC's be avoided?

Obviously, VOC's cannot be removed from the home completely – they are simply a part of modern life. However, there are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to safer and healthier levels.

To cut down on VOC's:

  • Limit your use of air fresheners, fabric conditioners, window cleaning fluids, sprays and aerosols, and dry cleaning.
  • Avoid using pesticides inside the house.
  • Look for products without fragrances or dyes, or products for sensitive skin.
  • When painting, look for paints that are labeled "low-VOC", and try to use water-based paints and sealants.
  • Don't mix household care or cleaning products unless directed on the label.
  • Ventilate well while using paint or paint strippers, harsh cleaners, and anything else "smelly". Briefly throwing open a window while using the product can keep concentrations from building up.
  • If you have unused containers of these products sitting around, throw them away – even closed containers can leak gases. Make sure you dispose of them safely; you can check with your city or county for household hazardous waste collection sites.
  • For products you only use occasionally or seasonally, buy in a small quantity that you will use right away.
  • Let new furniture or furnishings air out for a while before bringing them into the home, or ensure that the room they will be in is properly ventilated.  
  • Removing dust can help reduce exposure, as dust is a great absorbent for VOC's. Use a pleated filter in your furnace, or run an air purifier.
  • Run an air purifier which removes VOC's.

What does MCS mean?

Products which emit lower levels of VOC's (or air purifiers which remove VOC's) are sometimes marketed as being good for people with MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. People who suffer from this condition experience a wide variety of symptoms when exposed to low levels of common chemicals – symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

While more and more people have come forward with complaints of this condition, MCS remains a highly controversial topic. Most doctors do not yet consider MCS a recognized condition, because there is no way to diagnose it. MCS sufferers have no consistent set of specific signs and symptoms, and there is no way to objectively test for MCS. However, while some doctors have concluded that MCS is merely psychological, others continue to keep an open mind. Hopefully further and more conclusive research will be done in the future.

In the meantime, there are several steps that the EPA advises MCS sufferers to follow. These steps may help reduce symptoms. Not to mention, they contain good advice for just about everyone who wants to improve their health and their environment.

    1. Practice good health habits – many MCS sufferers, and allergy sufferers as well, have found that a good strong immune system may help reduce their symptoms. For a healthy immune symptom, avoid alcohol and cigarettes; get plenty of rest; exercise regularly; and maintain a nutritious and balanced diet.
    2. Avoid large quantities of vitamin supplements and untested herbs or pills, which can be toxic or cause allergies themselves. If you're worried about your diet, speak to a certified nutritionist.
    3. Avoid high levels of stress. Stress is known to aggravate allergic reactions and other illnesses.
    4. Keep a diary to identify conditions which make you feel better, and then try to reproduce those conditions.

     

achoo! Q&A

Q: How does skin testing for allergies work?

A: Many people dread the idea of getting skin tested for allergies. However, while the procedure may not be pleasant, it is not painful, and generally does not require a great deal of time. There are three main methods:

The intracutaneous method
In this method, the suspected allergen is injected into the skin of your arm. The intracutaneous method is generally used for allergens like insect venom or penicillin. Because it’s the most sensitive test, it can yield false-positives – the test involves a more intense contact with the allergen then you'll encounter in daily life. However, this is true for all the tests – even though you are allergic to a certain substance, you may not regularly exhibit symptoms.

The epicutaneous method (also called the patch test)
In this method, the suspected allergen is applied to a patch or bandage, which is placed against your skin for a longer period of time, usually 48 hours, after which you'll return to your doctor for evaluation. This method is generally used for skin-contact allergens like latex, fragrances, dyes, or medicines.

The percutaneous method (also called the puncture, prick, or scratch test)
This is the most common method, and is commonly used to identify typical environmental allergens like pollen, mold, pet dander, dust mites, and food allergens. This test is conducted by applying an extract of an allergen to the skin, typically on the forearm or back. The nurse or doctor uses a pen to mark areas on your skin, and then places a drop of a different allergen in each area. Then, a small pricking device like a blunt needle is used, so that the extract can enter the outer layer of the skin. The skin prick does not cause bleeding and is not painful, just mildly irritating.
After about 15 minutes, the doctor or nurse will look for signs of an allergic response – a red bump, surrounded by a red inflamed area. If you test positive, your healthcare provider will discuss treatments and solutions with you.

Want to have your allergy questions answered by the experts? Send your question to questions@achooallergy.com for a chance to see it featured in next month's newsletter.

In This Issue:

1. Trapped With Your VOC's? Information on common household pollutants
2. What's New at achoo! A tour of our newest product additions
3. Allergy Tips for October: News from the American Lung Association
4. Featured Products: Three great products we've picked for fall home improvement
5. achoo! Q&A: We answer your top allergy questions

What's New at achoo!

achoo! continues to grow. Michael recently joined us as the newest employee on our team. Michael brings over ten years of customer service experience, and is enthusiastic about helping our customers find their allergy solutions. Welcome Michael!

We're also proud to announce the addition of several new product lines to our selection. We really like our new products, and we think you will too! Just in time for winter, we are now offering two new varieties of bedding: luxurious and hypoallergenic down comforters by Ogallala Comfort Company, and naturally cozy organic cotton blankets from The Rug Barn. In addition, we've expanded our dehumidifier product offering to cover a wide selection of models by Ebac Industrial Products.

A closer look at our exciting new products:

$175.00 - $1,659.00

 

Hypodown Comforters and Pillows

Our new line of hypoallergenic down comforters is sure to be a hit with everyone, allergy-sufferers and down-lovers alike. Hypodown is an innovative blend of clean Hungarian goose down and naturally hypoallergenic syriaca clusters, and is stronger and more durable than down alone. Hypodown is tested by allergy doctors and guaranteed to be reaction free, even for people who normally experience allergic reactions to down. But Hypodown comforters are not just hypoallergenic – they are also beautiful, luxurious, and elegant. Available in a wide variety of styles, sizes, weights, and fill powers. 

Read more

 

$99.99 - $159.00

 

Organic Cotton Blankets

These warm and airy blankets are long woven from 100% certified organic cotton, in a creamy natural color. Not only is organic cotton ridiculously soft and cuddly, it's soft on the environment, too. American-grown and American made, without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. Organic agriculture helps protect people and the environment by reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals and synthetic pesticides, so you can feel good about investing in a clean future. Organic cotton blankets come in four sizes, available in six textured weaves.

Read more  

 

$472.00 - $6,248.00

Ebac Dehumidifiers

If you're shopping for a dehumidifier, we have the answer. We've expanded our offering of dehumidifiers to include twelve great models from Ebac, an industry leader in dehumidification solutions. With a wide range of models and features, an Ebac dehumidifier can do the job for you. Whether you are shopping for a small, quiet residential unit, a unit for restoration and water damage, or a unit for environmental control in a harsh industrial setting: Ebac has the solution, and we are proud to bring it you.

Read more

 

 

Allergy Tips for October

The American Lung Association has designated October as the National Home Indoor Air Quality Action & Awareness month. On Monday October 3rd, they announced the launch of their nationwide campaign to improve indoor air quality. Since many families are getting ready to spend a long winter indoors, fall is an ideal time for analyzing indoor air quality and making improvements.
Want to be part of it? The American Lung association recommends that you:

  • Use a simple home kit to test for radon
  • Place carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, particularly outside sleeping areas
  • Prohibit any indoor air smoking
  • Purchase filters for your furnace or air conditioner

In addition, consider installing web vent filters, which will trap dust, dirt and particles coming through your vent register systems. Running a HEPA air purifier will also improve air quality, so you may want to invest in an air purifier before the cold weather sets in.
For more information on indoor air quality, visit Healthhouse.org, a project of the American Lung Association.

 

October's Featured Products

$333.00 - $1,063.00

 

Hypodown Pearl Crescent Comforter

Pearl Crescent Hypodown Comforter

We are so pleased to offer these wonderful comforters! Made from Hypodown, an innovative combination of pristine Hungarian goose down and naturally hypoallergenic Syriaca clusters. Hypodown is more durable and breathable than down alone, and best of all, it's allergy-free! The Pearl Crescent Hypodown Comforter is baffled in a beautiful honeycomb pattern, and encased in silky 330-thread count long staple cotton sateen. You'll fall in love with it on the first night.

Read more

 

$440.00 - $599.98

AllerAir Vocarb Air Purifiers

AllerAir Vocarb Air Purifier

These sturdy and durable air purifiers by AllerAir are specially designed to remove VOC's, like formaldehyde and ammonia. They contain up 22 lbs of activated carbon, specially blended to deal with a large number of VOC problems, and are most effective for up to 750 square feet. AllerAirs are durable, easily maintained, cylindrical for maximum air flow, with casters for easy moving. An AllerAir will keep the air in your home fresh and breathable.

Read more  

 

$144.99

AllergyZone Furnace Filter

AllergyZone Furnace Filter

Just what you need to get your home ready for cold weather. The unique, patented design on the AllergyZone Furnace Filter traps allergy-causing particles, using a combination of electrostatic and mechanical filtration. Designed to provide higher efficiency and better performance than other home furnace filters. You can stay cozy during winter without worrying about re-circulating dust, dirt, and allergens.

Read more

 

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