Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and What to Know About Them - AirDoctor

There’s no shortage of acronyms in the air purifier industry. We’ve covered some of them—CADR and HEPA—in previous blog posts. There’s another one that’s important to clear the air about: VOC. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are one of the key contaminants to look out for in indoor air. We’ll discuss exactly what VOCs are, and how AirDoctor provides unparalleled protection against their risks.

What is a Volatile Organic Compound?

“Volatile organic compound” is used to refer to a compound with a high vapor pressure and low water solubility. In other words, a VOC is capable of evaporating under normal indoor atmospheric conditions, according to the EPA.

VOCs are gases emitted from certain liquids or solids. While they can come from natural sources, most are human-made chemicals. They’re often found in petroleum fuels, hydraulic fluids, industrial solvents, and in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, refrigerants, and paints. Considered common groundwater contaminants, VOCs are also emitted from thousands of products—making them a prevalent air pollutant, too.

In fact, you’re likely surrounded by VOC-emitting products as you read this blog. Common sources of VOC release (“off-gassing”) include craft materials, paint, carpet, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, furniture, pesticides, cosmetic products, and building materials. They can also be produced while using office equipment, smoking tobacco, and dry-cleaning clothes. Worse, VOC concentrations are up to ten times as high indoors as they are outdoors.

Dangers of Inhaling VOCs

Now, let’s get to a question that is surely running through your mind, are VOCs dangerous? Many VOCs can contribute to short- and long-term health complications. They can either be harmful on their own, or react with other gases to form other dangerous air pollutants.

Some common examples of VOCs include:

  • 1,3-butadiene
  • Ammonia
  • Benzene
  • Chloroform
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Limonene
  • Methylene chloride
  • Naphthalene
  • Tetrachloroethylene
  • Toluene
  • Xylene

Inhaling VOCs can lead to a range of health implications. On the less severe side of the spectrum, VOCs can be responsible for headaches, dizziness, or throat, nose, and eye irritation. They may also contribute to nausea or breathing troubles. Inhaled over long periods of time, VOCs can worsen symptoms for people with asthma.

In more severe cases, VOCs can cause damage to many organs, including the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. A number of VOCs have also caused cancer, and benzene and formaldehyde have been deemed “probable human carcinogens.” Even a small number of indoor air VOCs, according to a 2020 study, “can increase certain health risks to unacceptable levels” (including cancer).

Ways to Combat VOCs

As prevalent as they are, it would be near impossible to rid our homes of all sources of VOCs. But fortunately, there are many steps we can take to reduce VOC exposure.

  • Source “Low VOCs” versions of paints and building supplies
  • Avoid the use of pesticides and use natural pest repellants instead (i.e. clove, lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus essential oils mixed with water into a spray)
  • Avoid smoking inside or near your home
  • Use essential oils instead of air fresheners or candles
  • Provide adequate ventilation while using products with high VOCs (like cleaning products)
  • Let new building products and carpet air outside to off-gas VOCs before they’re installed
  • Shop secondhand to buy furniture that has already off-gassed a significant amount of VOCs

Even if all of these tips were to be followed, VOCs would still linger! Fortunately, true peace of mind is possible, all thanks to AirDoctor’s powerful purification. Through the process of chemical adsorption, our carbon activated filters attract and trap VOCs within their porous surfaces. When these VOCs are locked up in one of our purifiers, they no longer put you and your family in danger.

AirDoctor to the Rescue

In addition to VOCs, AirDoctor purifiers provide the ultimate protection against 99.99% of air contaminants as small as 0.003 microns. It’s no secret that our indoor air is becoming increasingly dangerous. This is why we’re committed to providing uncompromised quality and delivering superior peace of mind.

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