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Part 3 – What We Don’t Know
but Should Know

about the Air We Breathe –

D. What Are We Breathing?
5. VOC's


5. Chemicals/Smoke/VOC's.

VOC's on demand

Decorator or VOC distributor?

If we can understand something of the mechanics of how odors originate and spread through air, we can begin to make sense of the concerns regarding "Volatile Organic Compounds" or "VOC's" for short.

VOC's can originate from natural sources such as rotting vegetation or animal matter. They may also come from man made sources. Of special concern are those derived from some form of petroleum or petroleum derivative, known in the industry as "petroleum distillates" or "petrochemicals".

Regardless of source, VOC's may range from mildly noxious to lethal, depending both on the type of material and the amount of the exposure. Some naturally occurring VOC's, such as radon or methane gas, can be quite debilitating or dangerous.

And reading the Material Safety Data Sheets ("MSDS") on many fairly common household products should cause a great deal of caution or alarm.
Spectral analysis of new VOC emissions.
Spectral analysis of the VOC emissions from building materials in a newly finished room.

VOC's may or not have a discernible odor to alert one to their presence and possible danger. For instance, natural gas is naturally odorless yet terribly deadly. Government regulations require that a foul smelling substance is added to the gas to let us know when gas may be present and warn of its dangers. Other VOC's do give off warning smells, initially, but with the proliferation of so many artificial substances, we have overwhelmed our discerning sensitivities and gotten accustomed to dealing with myriads of potentially harmful odors.

One way we have done so is by means of the surface and room odorants we so quickly and thoughtlessly use. Another way is by means of a natural response whereby, after prolonged exposure, our olfactory systems often cease to recognize the presence of constant odors. In neither case does it mean that the VOC's have gone away or that they no longer pose a threat. It just means that we do not give them the attention they deserve.

Is your home a chemical factory?
With today's building materials and products, it is almost like having a chemical plant right in your own living room!
What are typically branded as V.O.C.'s and of the most concern are usually found indoors in the off gassings given by synthetic carpet, paints, finishes, furniture, circuit boards, household and commercial cleaning products, insecticides, synthetic surfaces, particle wood products, and thousands of other common household and commercial items. They are of special concern in indoor environments where the same air is constantly re-circulated and the concentrations of the emitted gases can build. New construction is especially notorious for bringing together numerous products and substances known to be at their most volatile (and dangerous) state, though the emission of micro particles will continue almost indefinitely throughout the lifetime of the product.

Likewise, new cars are known for their characteristic "new car smell" generated by the combination of VOC's from the numerous synthesized materials they contain. While that smell is typically linked to the pleasant experience of acquiring new transportation, its presence may not be altogether benign.

Further complications arise when gases of certain chemicals which singly may have little or no toxic effect combine with other chemical gases and create new compounds which are toxic to some degree, whether mild or severe. Multiple combinations of these new gaseous compounds (referred to in the IAQ community as "toxic soups") can have a combined net effect which is very hazardous in a closed indoor environment. It is no doubt one of the reasons that the US EPA has stated that we are five times more likely to get cancer from our indoor environments than by any of the pollution exposures we would get out of doors. It would be different if we could SEE the VOC's.
No IAQ plan is complete which does not address the reduction, neutralization, or elimination of VOC's.

Dangerous Chemicals One Inch from Your Baby

Baby Boys at Risk on Plastic MattressesDangerous chemicals that could possibly cause fertility and hormonal problems for your baby boy are only an inch away when he sleeps. Phthalate chemicals used in the production of crib mattresses are linked to reproductive and liver damage, asthma, allergies and malformations.

Phthalates are chemicals used in the manufacture of vinyl that make products soft and flexible. They are classified as endocrine disrupters, which are synthetic chemicals that either mimic or block hormones when absorbed into the body or disrupt bodily functions. Over time, the chemicals leach out of the vinyl, causing it to become brittle and crack.

Although phthalates are used in hundreds of everyday objects, from plastic wrap to personal care products, perhaps the most troubling uses are in products that are closest to babies for much of their young lives. Although manufacturers voluntarily eliminated phthalates from baby toys that go directly into an infant’s mouth, they are still used in the manufacture of other toys. They are also found in large amounts in crib mattresses and waterproof pads. These items constantly exude harmful phthalates that are breathed in by babies for ten or more hours a day for two or more years.

A study released in 2005 found that the baby boys of moms who were exposed to the largestBaby's crib or poison station? amounts of phthalates during pregnancy had smaller penises and were more likely to have undescended testicles. This study backed up earlier animal studies that showed phthalates caused “the phthalate syndrome,” which included a demasculinization of the male reproductive tract and included lower sperm counts and testicular tumors as adults.

“Every aspect of male identity is altered when you see this in male animals,” said Fred vom Saal, professor of reproductive biology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Manufacturers are responding to parents’ concerns by offering organic crib mattresses. One company, NaturePedic, produces crib mattresses using natural materials such as cotton and eliminates all vinyl and phthalates. Some baby stores are beginning to stock organic crib mattresses or they can be found online.

1. Particulates
Fields of Potential Allergens
2. Allergens
3. Pathogens
VOC's, smoke, chemicals
5. Chemicals/
6. Mold

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There's More!

What You Need to Know
(A brief Overview of Indoor Air Quality Issues)
IAQ Overview - Table of Contents
IAQ Overview - Part 1 - Is There a Problem?
IAQ Overview - Part 2 - What Don't We Know?
* IAQ Overview - Part 3 - What Do We Need to Know? *
IAQ Overview - Part 4 - Which Technology Works the Best?
IAQ Overview - Part 5 - What are the Major Differences in the Technologies?
IAQ Overview - Part 6 - What IAQ Issues Need to be Considered and Addressed?
IAQ Overview - Full Article

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Overview Topics

Is There a Problem?

A. Is There a Problem?

An introduction to indoor air quality issues.

What Don't We Know

B. What Don't We Know?

The problem is worse than we


Need to Know

C. What Do We Need to Know?

Sorting out the info and charting a course to follow.


What Are We Breathing?

D. What are We Breathing?

Unwelcome guests we receive every time we breathe.



1. Particulates.

Airborne pieces of a lot of stuff we should not be breathing.


Fields of Potential Allergens

2. Allergens.

The body’s “hit list” of alien invaders.



3. Pathogens. 

The bacteria, viruses, and germs which reproduce in the human body and try to stage a takeover.


One of kazillions of Odor Sources in a home or building

4. Odors.

Things have odors for a reason,
but why?
Can the problem be corrected rather than merely masked or covered up?


VOC's on Demand

5. Chemicals/Smoke/VOC's.
Are we possibly drowning in a toxic soup?



6. Mold.

Is what we see dangerous?
And is what we don't see
perhaps more dangerous than what we do see?  


Which Technology?

E. Which Technology Works the Best?

Are the technologies pretty much equal, or is their a large disparity among them?


Passive Technology

1. Passive Technology.

The pollution finds the solution.
(Or so we hope!)


Active Technology

2. Active Technology.

The solution finds the pollution -
even where it is hiding!



a. Stage One --
Dual Ionization (Particulate Removal)


Quad Oxidizing Plasma Generator
b. Stage Two -- Quad Oxidizing Plasmas


Radical Hydroxyls

c. Stage Three -- Advanced Oxidation


RCI Technology
d. Combo Effect -- The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts.


Apples and Oranges

3. Major Differences.

Things that are not the same
are not equal.


Out of this world

a. Literally out of this world.

The technology which produces
"the purest air on the planet"
actually comes from
out of this world.


Overall air purity

b. Overall Air Purity.

By what standard do you certify the actual purity of air?


Lab tech

c. Too Clean to Test for Purity?

"Without dirt in the air,
we cannot tell you
how pure the air is."
Does that strike anybody as odd?


Where's the dirt?
d. Where's the Dirt?

(Where is Clara Peller
when you need her?)


What to do?

e. What to do? 

Anybody can see that it’s clean except the career bureaucrats.


Where are the germs?

f. Where are the Germs?

Hint: One place they are not is
"Blowin' in the Wind".


Who gets to clean the conventional filter?

g. Filtration rates vs. Kill rates.

In the war against pathogens,
would you like your germs
captured and contained
or killed "graveyard dead"?


Odor abatement/removal

h. Odor Abatement/Removal.

The same thing that RCITM
does to particulates and germs it does also to smoke, dust, and sources of odors.


What must be considered?

F. What IAQ issues must be considered and addressed?

Head to head comparison of the technologies - very revealing.


Medical considerations

G. Are there medical considerations?

Obligatory disclaimers and the practical realities of what happens when a sick body can actually catch its breath.


Legal considerations

H. Are there legal and other considerations?

What happens if we just ignore the problem or fail to investigate it fully?


When is timing an issue?

I. When is Timing an Issue?

If the mold or other air quality problem doesn't seem to be spreading or getting any worse, so we really have to pay it any attention?