Is it mold in my home or workplace that’s making me lethargic or could it be something else?

Is mold in my home or workplace making me sick?

The majority of our customers with indoor environmental concerns are usually concerned about “mold in my home or workplace”, but there are many other types of contaminants that can have a negative effect on indoor environments and the individuals working and living within them. One of these types of contaminants can be volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

What are VOCs? The following is a definition provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Organic compounds are chemicals that contain carbon and are found in all living things. Volatile organic compounds, sometimes referred to as VOCs, are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases. Along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen…………………. Many volatile organic compounds are commonly used in paint thinners, lacquer thinners, moth repellents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, degreasers, automotive products, and dry cleaning fluids………. (The entire definition can be found at

We can unwittingly expose ourselves in the work place to potentially higher levels of VOCs than what OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety and Health Administration) permits.  OSHA sets permissible exposure limits (PEL) for VOCs to protect workers in the workplace

The areas where we see the greatest potential for exposure to VOCs in the work place can vary depending on building classification and usage. The risk for elevated VOC exposure may seem to be greater where VOCs are being aerosolized due to a job related process such as painting, dry cleaning, machining, etc. However; exposure to elevated VOC levels can also be experienced in a newly constructed office building or home where there doesn’t seem to be a process occurring that would emit VOCs.

Q) Where are some places VOCs come from?

A) Off gassing building materials (Adhesives used in flooring, new furniture, fresh paint, etc.)

Outside air infiltration (Engine exhaust from idling trucks at loading docks, roof top generators                   near outside air intakes)

Poorly drafting combustion appliances (Gas fired furnaces, gas fired water heaters, etc.)

Cleaning chemicals

Air freshening sprays; plug in deodorizers, perfumes, etc.

The U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) also recognizes the importance of VOC exposure and has established VOC monitoring as a requirement for buildings owners trying to obtain LEED certification. VOC monitoring must be performed as part of earning LEED credit 3.2.

Q) How can you prevent exposure to elevated VOC exposure?

A) Use adequate ventilation when using VOC containing cleaning chemicals. Keep lids tightly secured on containers. Do not store chemicals near air conditioning components; especially intake grilles and air handling units.

Ventilate buildings that have had new building materials installed, painting informed, etc.

Limit usage of aerosols (Deodorizers, disinfectants, etc.)

Have gas fired appliances professionally maintained and use carbon monoxide detectors.

If you suspect elevated levels of VOCs within your home or workplace, a certified indoor environmental professional (CIEP) such as a Certified Indoor Environmentalist (CIE) or Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) can perform air monitoring and testing to determine if elevated VOCs are present. The CIEP can also assist with developing a strategy to limit VOC exposure.

In the event you feel that an indoor environment could be immediately dangerous to your life or health, you should contact your local fire department. Fire departments are well trained and equipped to handle emergencies such as gas leaks, exposure to carbon monoxide and chemical spills.

If you want to know more about mold, mold remediation or are concerned about mold in your home or place of business, contact us TODAT at !

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