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about home air testing

common questions

About the Home Air Check test

What is Home Air Check™?

Home Air Check is an advanced analysis of an air sample taken in a home that provides a report on the total concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and the total concentration of Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) present in the home.

About VOCs

What are VOCs?

VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are invisible gases that are emitted from solids and liquids found in the home, such as building materials, cooking sources, gasoline and fuel, air fresheners, paints/varnishes, dry-cleaning, laser printers, carpeting, adhesives, cleaning solutions, and many other sources. These chemicals can build up in houses, especially in the winter and summer months when homes are generally closed up. Repeated exposure to VOCs can cause blurred vision, headaches, nausea, dizziness, coughing, lethargy, burning eyes, respiratory irritation, skin rashes, reduced lung function, respiratory illness, concentration difficulties, depression, and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness and suffocation. Higher exposure can lead to liver damage, kidney and central nervous system irregularities. Some VOCs can cause cancer.

What are MVOCs?

MVOCs are gases (chemicals) produced by actively growing mold. Just as humans expire gases, so do molds. These chemicals can be monitored to determine the level of actively growing mold in the house. A Home Air Check™ measurement is an excellent way to determine the level of mold growing in a house — even behind walls. This is possible because Home Air Check is a chemical analysis of the air, and chemicals move more freely through a house than mold spores (particulates) which can be trapped by walls and thereby go undetected. When mold levels are elevated and there is chronic exposure in the home, some individuals can experience negative health effects, or worsening of existing illnesses, that could run the gamut from mild to serious. These health effects could include allergies, skin irritations, asthma, respiratory infection, and toxic poisoning. In addition, individuals with suppressed immune systems may be particularly vulnerable to illnesses caused by mold contamination.

Do VOCs and MVOCs stay in my house?

Yes, these materials will stay in the house until they are removed. The house is full of VOC sources as mentioned in the above question “What are VOCs,” and the amount in the air will eventually reach a constant level within a few days to a week in a closed house. MVOCs, since they are generated by growing organisms, can increase in concentration if mold growth is expanding in the house. This can lead to unsafe levels.

How do I reduce my home VOC and MVOC exposure?

The best way to maintain a low level, and thus, safe level of volatile chemicals in the house is to remove sources of VOCs and MVOCs from the house, if they can be identified. VOCs and MVOCs can be reduced, but not eliminated, by circulating fresh air from an open window or ceiling/attic exhaust fans.

If a house is opened up through windows and exhaust fans, the VOCs should be at their lowest level, assuming you are not living in heavy industrial chemical areas with chemical plants or fuel refining plants. If you live in a heavily industrialized area, you should probably have your air quality checked since it could be significantly above recommended standards.

The level of MVOCs will be the lowest in a dry home. If windows are open and the house becomes damp, then higher levels of microbial activity will be present and higher levels of MVOCs can be produced. In this case, turning on dehumidifiers and/or air conditioners and keeping the house closed will produce lower MVOCs.

How long does it take for VOCs and MVOCs to leave my house?

The length of time that it takes for VOCs or MVOCs to leave the home depends upon their source. Gasoline cans and kerosene lamps kept in an attached garage or in the home can generate significant VOCs, since they are generally stored in larger containers. VOCs from these sources can only be reduced by removing them from the home. If the VOC source can not be removed from the home, replacing the home air with fresh air on a regular basis will keep the VOCs at their lowest levels and will reduce your exposure.

If the VOCs are from furnishings like wood and plastic, they will be at their highest levels when they are new, but will continue to emit VOCs for many years. In addition, VOCs from water-based paints can be present for up to 18 months after application.

MVOCs will continue to be emitted from areas that have mold. The only way to remove this source is to have the existing mold removed and then prevent building materials like wood and drywall from getting wet, either from excessive humidity, leaky plumbing, or water intrusion from rain or ground water.

Why test your air

Why should I measure for these chemicals in my home?

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the European Union (EU) suggest that levels greater than 500 ng/L of VOCs could pose a health hazard in homes. High levels of VOCs can lead to respiratory irritation, mental confusion, headaches, lethargy, or worse, and can exacerbate existing medical conditions such as asthma. The levels of these compounds tend to be higher in homes built after 1970 because fresh air infiltration has been reduced to conserve heat with improved insulation, tighter door and window seals, and better construction technology in general. MVOCs detected above 30 ng/L indicate significant actively growing mold. Even this slightly elevated level could produce health concerns for some people.

About Prism Analytical Technologies, Inc.

Who is Prism?

Prism Analytical Technologies, Inc. is the developer of Home Air Check. Prism is an air testing laboratory accredited by the AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs (AIHA-LAP), LLC in the Industrial Hygiene accreditation program for GC/MS Field of Testing as documented by the Scope of Accreditation Certificate and associated Scope. Prism has been developing novel air monitoring and testing techniques and providing air consultative services to Fortune 100 and 500 companies since 1992.

The Home Air Check advantage

Why use Home Air Check™ and not some other method?

With a single test, Home Air Check provides a comprehensive picture of chemical levels that the home occupants are breathing in the home. It also indicates a level of actively growing mold present in the home. Since these chemicals are tested simultaneously, the sophisticated analysis becomes less expensive. Also, the samples are collected without the use of toxic chemicals, so there are no health risks using Home Air Check. No other home air test can match the level of completeness, sophistication, prediction, and value of Home Air Check.

How can Home Air Check™ be advanced and sophisticated, yet still be so inexpensive?

Prism has spent the last 2 decades developing state-of-the-art testing methods that are effective for the collection and analysis of ambient air samples at a very low cost. For even the most expensive tests, the cost is still half of what other laboratories charge due to the level of automation utilized at the Prism laboratory.