Today we started working on redecorating the dining hall at St Mary’s.
We’ve been blessed by 4 wonderful volunteers: a parent from St Mary’s (Alice’s dad from year 1. He will also be with us tomorrow), Carlos who was sent to us by our partners in Enjoy Work (he’ll also be with us tomorrow) and not one, but two of our local councillors: the ever-present Ron Mushiso, and Sam Hearn. On Monday we also had a visit from COucillor John Todd, who’s been on the phone with us ever since asking for how things are going. Needless to say, we are very very grateful to all of them.
This is the room which we’ve been monitoring for the past couple of month. The Council itself has been taking several readings inside the room and we’re also taking some readings with a uHoo unit
What we are particularly concerned about here are the levels of VOCs, the carbon-based chemicals that are emitted as gases from solids or liquids.
While most people can smell high levels of some VOCs, other VOCs have no odor.
There are thousands of different VOCs produced and used in our daily lives such as household products (paint, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents and air fresheners, etc) and from activities at home (cooking, dry cleaning, smoking, wood burning stoves, etc).
The levels you want to keep your home are between 0 and 400ppb.
With levels between 400ppb and 800ppb, the risk of health effects from inhaling any chemical may increase, depending on how much is in the air, how long and how often a person breathes it in. Breathing low levels of VOCs for long periods of time may increase some people’s risk of health problems.
Several studies suggest that exposure to VOCs may make symptoms worse in people who have asthma or are particularly sensitive to chemicals. Short-term effects include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, worsening of asthma symptoms. Long-term exposure increases risk of cancer, liver damage, kidney damage and nerve damage.
One should try to avoid reaching very high levels at all cost. Exposures above 800ppb causes serious health effects such as increasing your risk of cancer and liver, kidney and nerve damage.
Over the past two weeks these levels in that room were particularly high reaching
The readings we’ve been taking over the past 2 weeks have shown very high level and then this past week-end ( a fairly windy one) something made sky rocket to levels as high as 1156ppb
We’re looking forward to seeing whether this new paint job with Airlite will bring some positive results.
Stay tuned for more
Generally speaking, as far as solutions are concerned, when it comes to VOCs, these are the basic ones:
- Remove or reduce the number of products in your home that give off VOCs. Only purchase amounts of chemicals that you know you will use and carefully follow directions on product labels. Remove unused chemicals from the home because stored chemicals in closed containers can sometimes “leak” and release VOCs into indoor air.
- If you are buying new things for the home, consider floor models that have been allowed to off-gas in the store, solid wood items with low emitting finishes and new products that contain low or no VOCs (environmentally preferable products).
- Some manufacturers of air cleaning equipment may claim that ozone generators can decrease VOCs, research has shown that such devices may, in fact, increase some types of VOCS. Also, if an air cleaning device produces ozone at a level that is effective in killing molds and viruses, then it is also at a level that can be harmful to us human beings and our pets.
- When VOCs reach levels above 800ppb, you have to bring it back down immediately. Some ways to do it include:
- Increasing ventilation by opening doors and windows
- Use fans and maximize air brought in from outside
- Keep both the temperature and relative humidity as low as possible or comfortable because chemicals will off-gas more under warmer conditions with high humidity.
In the long term, if possible, perform renovations when your home is unoccupied or during seasons that will allow for additional ventilation.