Vapor Intrusion: What It Is and Why You Should Care

BY Allconnect Inc | Sun Oct 27, 2013

vapor-intrusionAre you moving into a new house? Well everyone knows the basic checklist to perform before you buy or rent a new house but many fail to address far serious issues like vapour intrusion, which, most of the time happens due to lack of awareness. Not to worry though, this article here aims just to do that, i.e. help build awareness on Vapor Intrusion and why you should care about it. So let’s go forward then and start with…

What is Vapor Intrusion?

When volatile chemicals from contaminated groundwater or soil start to migrate towards an overlying building directly above or within close proximity of where the leak is coming from, this is called vapour intrusion.

Understanding what constitutes volatile chemicals and why they represent a safety hazard will enable you to accurately assess the potential risk you may be exposed to and allow you to take the required action to avert a risk to human health.

Volatile chemicals

The United States Environmental Protection Agency, known as EPA, have some basic information available on their website which outlines the sort of chemical and organic compounds which could represent a danger to human health through vapour intrusion.

The term volatile chemicals relates to a number of different chemicals and gases that could potentially seep into a dwelling that becomes exposed to the source. Dangers can come from volatile organic compounds, certain semi-volatile organic compounds and some inorganic analytes such as elemental mercury, radon and hydrogen sulfide.

The effects on our health

The effect on our health that vapour intrusion can have is dependent on a number of factors according to Environmental Data Resources.

Exposure to certain can cause cancer and the effect of exposure to the type of chemicals that represent a risk depends on the level of exposure, the length of time you were exposed, your overall health at the time of exposure and your sensitivity to chemicals in general, which can vary between different people.

The source of vapour intrusion

Vapor intrusion comes from chemicals that are capable of readily evaporating which enable them to form vapors that are known as Volatile Organic Chemicals, known as VOC’s.

The source of VOC’s can be from chemicals used by manufacturing and industry and also from leaking underground storage tanks used by gas stations to store fuel. You can also be exposed to VOC’s from the chemicals used by dry cleaning businesses.

Reducing your potential exposure

One of the issues with vapour intrusion is that at low levels, in can sometimes be difficult to detect and people can then become exposed over a longer term period as a result of the lack of detection, which can then gradually introduce the effects of prolonged exposure.

Our homes are understandably well vented but that presents a problem when it comes to preventing vapour intrusion.

Vapor control systems

It is a good idea to get an assessment from a suitably qualified professional if you think there is potential vapour intrusion occurring at your property and depending on the results of a survey, this will enable you to take action in order to mitigate the effects.

It is possible to remove soil vapors below ground before they get the chance to enter your home and by sealing any cracks in your foundations and installing a venting system, you can divert any potentially harmless vapors using a vent, which directs them above your property, where they then become harmless to you.

Vapor intrusion can certainly represent a danger to your health if you become exposed, so take steps to ensure that you and your property are suitably protected.

Leonardo Dawson is a home contractor with several years under his belt. When he has some free time, he likes to share his experiences on various blog sites. You can find more information on Vapor intrusion here.

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