Minimizing the release of potentially harmful and odorous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the indoor air is a necessary product requirement for achieving good indoor air quality in homes, commercial buildings, schools, and health care environments. Today’s green marketplace demands a safe indoor environment free of unacceptable indoor pollutants that can exacerbate asthma, allergies, and other respiratory diseases, and, in some cases, result in other illnesses.
Research has shown that VOCs are typically two to five times higher in indoor environments than outdoors, and in new construction and renovations, they can escalate to hundreds of times higher. Common VOCs include formaldehyde and solvents such as toluene, xylenes, and glycols.
Many indoor materials and processes can contribute to these VOCs, but interest has focused on finished wood products that are present in large amounts in homes and buildings, present as furniture, shelving, cabinetry, millwork, flooring, and casework. Courthouses in particular are of concern because the extensive amounts of decorative wood paneling.
Air Quality Sciences, Inc. (AQS) has developed environmental chamber test protocols that allow manufacturers to understand the levels of emissions released by wood finishes including stains, sealers, and topcoats. These materials may be tested individually or as applied systems on wood.
The information produced indicates what VOCs are being released and at what level. It also indicates if reaction products are present and if the finish provides a barrier to natural emissions from a wood substrate.
Manufacturers can use this information to determine if their emissions will be acceptable for use on products to be qualified as low emitting under the new Green Building guidelines from the National Homebuilders Association and the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.