A big portion of the general public has never heard about VOCs or more popularly known as volatile organic compounds. This is one of the main reasons why many people suffer from health issues that can easily be avoided. While such air pollutants can be harmful to everyone, they can be significantly more dangerous to people who have asthma, multiple chemical sensitivity, or other respiratory issues.
If you ventilate your home on a daily basis, you would think that your indoor air is clean and healthy, however, this is far from true. Indoor air can often contain levels of invisible, odorless toxic VOCs that are 2 to 5 times higher as compared to outdoor air according to the EPA.
In this article, you will find out everything you need to know about volatile organic compounds, the dangers that they can expose your healthy body to as well as what you can do about VOCs to limit your daily exposure to those toxic airborne particles.
What Are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?
VOCs are a group of carbon-based chemicals that can easily evaporate and mix with the breathable air indoors. While some VOCs are harmless plant-based extracts that cause smells like pine and citrus, others are released from burning petrol, wood, coal, and natural gas which can be extremely harmful to the human body when exposed over a period of time. Additionally, consumer products that release VOCs such as cigarettes and solvents are also harmful to the human body.
If you don’t smoke, you are probably thinking that you are a lot less likely to be affected by VOCs. While you certainly minimize your exposure to a certain type of VOC, it isn’t a whole lot better when you take into consideration all kinds of airborne chemicals that are populating your indoor air. The truth is that they come in different forms and there typically are thousands of them inside products we all have around our homes. While some of them have an odor, others have no smell at all.
For example, relatively popular products that possess traces of VOCs include carpets, cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, cosmetics, mothballs, and others. Additionally, one of the most common VOCs that affects hundreds of thousands of homes in the United States is biologically created by plants, including some types of molds.
How Do VOCs Get Released Into The Air?
Volatile organic compounds most commonly get released into the air through a process known as off-gassing. This process occurs when a particular product releases a matter and gases that were initially trapped in a liquid or solid form. It is known that off-gassed elements are often carcinogenic; meaning that they can react with other common air components to form harmful elements that mix up with breathable indoor air.
An example of VOCs that can be released at home or at the office includes printing and photocopying as well as cosmetic products like air fresheners.
How Do VOCs Affect Our Health?
Scientists state that short-term exposure to a high-level of carbon-based compounds can affect your health and cause symptoms like eye, nose, and throat irritations, headaches, vomiting, and feeling of nausea as well as symptoms of asthma.
If you are exposed to high levels of carbon-based compounds, then your health can become permanently affected. Exposure to harmful VOCs can result in an increased risk of lung, liver and kidney damage as well as cancer, and permanent nervous system damage.
Who Can Mostly Benefit From an Air Purifier Against VOCs?
While every household owner should consider purchasing an air purifier for healthier and cleaner indoor air, it isn’t absolutely necessary and people live long and happy lives without one. This fact, however, shouldn’t persuade you to abolish the idea of an indoor purifier as it has many health benefits. If one of the below applies to you, you absolutely must have an air purifier within your home.
- If you have asthma, allergies, or other respiratory condition.
- There is a young child or a baby living in your household.
- You are taking care of or are an elderly person.
- You have the desire to live in a healthy environment and want to maximize the health benefits provided by air purifiers.
On another note, if you are a healthy teenager or adult, you shouldn’t take your chances and invest in an air purifier especially if you live in a large polluted city and are under constant exposure to harmful VOCs coming from burnt vehicle fuel, factory emissions and more.
This Is What You Need To Do If Your Indoors Is Heavily Affected by VOCs.
Regardless if you feel it or not, chances are that your daily life is affected by volatile organic compounds in one way or another. It can happen in your car, in the office, or even at your own home, and so, taking preventative measures where possible can have a great impact on your overall well-being.
While the government is doing their part in minimizing VOCs, relying solely on regulators and manufacturers to minimize the effects of VOCs in their products may not be the best idea. You shouldn’t leave your well-being in their hands and begin to make informed decisions & invest in technologies that will help you against inhaling potentially hazardous air particles and gases.
While it is impossible to completely stay away from VOCs, there are a few ways that can help you with limiting your exposure to air pollution caused by VOCs inside your home or office.
What you can do at the home office
The air quality in your home office can often be neglected as the only time you spend there is working. So, if you spend more than 5-6 hours per day in a single room, you need to make sure that it is properly ventilated to reduce the level of VOCs in the air caused by photocopying, printing, cosmetic air fresheners and other products that release harmful elements into the air.
What you can do in the kitchen and lounge
The average person cooks at least once a day. Cooking can too release VOC emissions. In order to minimize VOCs from cooking, be sure to use the extractor fan and open your windows and doors. If you are cooking on a wood-burning stove, make sure that your chimney is well cleaned and that no emissions remain or return to eventually spread into your lounge.
What you can do in your bedroom
Having a good quality night sleep is one of the most important factors that contribute towards a healthy long life and overall great well-being. So, as we spend an average of 6-8 hours in the bedroom every day, it is important to make sure that you sleep in a clean and fresh environment.
Be sure to air-dry your bedding when possible to reduce emissions, choose furniture that is made from natural wood with non-toxic sealants, remove electrical devices, and most importantly, ventilate your bedroom on a daily basis.
What you can do during wash days
When you are washing your clothes or using cleaning products, benzene and acetaldehyde are often released into the air. One of the best ways to minimize the impact of VOCs during wash days is ensuring that the room where you wash your clothes is very well ventilated. Be sure to open your doors and windows to ensure that fresh and clean air is entering the room while VOCs are making their way out.
The Different Air Purification Filters And Their Effectiveness Against VOCs
If you spend some time on the market researching air purifiers, you will find out that there is a large variety of models and brands that make use of different filtration technologies. Below, we will discuss each filtration technology available on the market today and discuss it in more detail so that you can make a more informed decision when buying an air purifier against VOCs.
First, let’s start off with the air purification technologies that are not able to deal and effectively remove VOCs.
Electrostatic air purifiers
Electrostatic air purifiers like the OION B-1000 captures particles that are either in a solid or liquid form by making use of an electrically charged screen or panel. While they are effective in successfully purifying those kinds of particles, they are ineffective against VOC gas molecules that are smaller than 0.3 microns.
Ozone generators continuously release toxic gasses like ozone into the indoor air as a method of air purification. While ozone is essentially oxygen, in this case, an extra oxygen atom is attached. If ozone gets the opportunity to interact with other molecules like mold, tobacco smoke, or other toxic evaporations, the extra oxygen atom can attach to the toxic molecules. This can transform them into more dangerous breathable particles and have serious health effects on the human body.
While ozone is proven in destroying cell walls and other biological cells, studies show that ozone is ineffective against the removal of VOCs from the air.
Are HEPA air purifier filters effective against VOCs?
The true HEPA filter is arguably the most common type of air purification technology on the market today. They are specifically designed to trap particles like allergens, pet dander, and dust mites as air passes through the filter. While HEPA filters can certainly capture 99.97% of all harmful pollutants, it isn’t as effective against VOCs as they are gasses and are around 1000 times smaller than what the HEPA air filters can capture.
Are Photochemical Oxidation (PCO) filters effective against VOCs?
PCO filters, or more well known as photochemical oxidation filters make use of UV-C light to purify the air indoors from any harmful pollutants. PCO filters effectively break down and eliminate any toxic VOCs; however, in order to be effective, they need to expose the dangerous particles to intense UV-C light which can take some time. This makes this type of filtration often ineffective against VOCs. Moreover, the UV-C light technology is also known to produce ozone pollutants.
Now that you are familiar with the filtration technologies that are ineffective against VOCs, let’s move onto the only two options that you can pick from against the fight of VOCs.
Are Carbon-active filters effective against VOCs?
Activated carbon filters are specially designed with the goal to effectively remove gaseous elements from breathable air. This type of filter is very effective in the removal of volatile organic compounds in a short period of time. The only potential problem with this type of filter is that some of the gases that were initially captured for filtration may be released back into the air.
Are PECO filters effective against VOCs?
Finally, Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) is a technology developed by Dr. Yogi Goswami which was later implemented into the renowned Molekule air purifier. This recently developed air purification technology is capable of successfully capturing and disposing of volatile organic compounds in the air. In other words, unlike the carbon filter, it completely destroys the particles rather than collecting them or potentially releasing them back into the air.
Our Recommendation: The Best Air Purifier Against VOCs.
After taking into consideration the different types of air purification technologies, it is pretty clear to see that active carbon air filtration and PECO technology are the two options that can successfully remove any unwanted volatile organic compounds from your indoor air.
Now, when it comes to making a decision between the two, a question arises: Which air purification technology is right for you?
In order to find that out, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need to remove a large amount of VOCs quickly?
- Do I need a short-term or long-term solution for everyday air purification?
If you are in need to remove a lot of VOCs in the air quickly, you should invest in a carbon-active filtration system due to their sheer filtration capacity. Some great carbon-active air purifier manufacturers include Dyson and Winix. On the other hand, if you are after a more long-term solution for everyday use, we would recommend the Molekule air purifier as it effectively disposes of all harmful particles without the risk of releasing them back into your indoors.
As a final thought, we would recommend you to invest your money in a Molekule air purifier which can effectively purify an area of 600 square feet. It is not only affordable on Amazon but is going to provide your home or office with the best solution against VOCs. It also has a great and proven clean air delivery rate (CADR) which makes it one of the most effective odor removal air cleaners on the market.