Ensuring that your home or business has safe, clean air can improve health and wellbeing, while also protecting from dangerous gases and particulates. Volatile Organic Compounds (or VOCs) represent some of the most prolific air quality hazards. These toxic airborne chemicals can pose multiple health hazards and need to be effectively filtered out to achieve optimal air quality.
VOCs can come from a vast range of common sources, including popular cleaning products, fragrances, furniture, and paint, among many others. The good news is that it’s possible to remove VOCs from your indoor air with the right strategy and tools. This article will help to provide a deeper understanding of VOCs and explore several ways to mitigate and eliminate them from your home or business.
What Are VOCs?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs are toxic chemicals emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects.
VOCs have become basic ingredients in many everyday products and materials. For that reason, they’re one of the hardest toxins to avoid. Worse, few types of contaminants carry as many health implications.
“Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors,” reports the EPA. “VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands,”
“Have you ever pumped gas, had your clothes dry cleaned, or used chlorine bleach in your laundry or for disinfection? Then you’re likely to have encountered VOCs…many of these chemicals are toxic and can pose human-health or ecological concerns.” - United States Geological Survey
But don’t panic! We have a variety of methods and equipment that can help to keep VOCs out of your space.
To better understand VOCs and how to manage them, we must first identify their origins.
Common Sources of VOCs
VOCs come from a staggering variety of places, including household cleaners and disinfectants, air fresheners, and aerosol sprays. Smoke from wood-burning stoves, cooking, tobacco, and wildfires also contains volatile organic compounds. So do many paints and glues.
VOCs are often present when you can smell a strong chemical scent. That’s especially true for new furniture, carpet, and electronics, which release VOCs in a process called “off-gassing”.
The most notorious VOCs include formaldehyde, benzene, and butanol.
Here are the top sources of household VOCs, according to the EPA:
- Paints, paint strippers, and other solvents
- Wood preservatives
- Aerosol sprays
- Cleansers and disinfectants (bleach and ammonia)
- Moth repellents and air fresheners
- Stored fuels and automotive products
- Hobby supplies
- Dry-cleaned clothing
- Building materials and furnishings (especially particle board furniture)
- Office equipment such as copiers and printers
- Glues, adhesives, and permanent markers
When working with these products, it is important to wear a protective mask and ideally run an air purifier or air filtration system.
Are VOCs Dangerous?
Yes, VOCs can be extremely dangerous and lead to serious health problems, with enough exposure. According to the American Lung Association VOCs are “harmful by themselves, including some that cause cancer. In addition, they can react with other gases and form other air pollutants after they are in the air.” Caution should be taken when dealing with VOCs, especially if the area lacks ventilation or proper air filtration.
HARMFUL EFFECTS OF VOCS
The EPA reports that VOCs often cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.
Other common symptoms include:
- Frequent headaches
- Allergic skin reaction
If you are experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis or when working with products that contain VOCs, you should create a plan to mitigate VOCs and improve air quality. The health benefits of clean air can have significant short and long term advantages.
Which VOCs are Dangerous?
These VOCs can be found in a wide variety of common products. When possible, avoid direct contact with them. Products that contain them should be stored in a safe, well-ventilated area away from your living space (such as a garage or outdoor shed). Here’s a list of VOCs that should be managed with caution:
- Carbon Disulfide
- Methylene Chloride
VOC Exposure Limits
According to the environmental technology solutions group TECAM, “TVOC (total concentration of multiple VOCs) can be measured in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) of air, milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3), parts per million (ppm) or parts per billion (ppb).”
The following chart will help to breakdown when the levels of VOCs in the air become dangerous:
TVOC Level mg/m3
Level of Concern
Less than 0.3 mg/m3
Painting a Room
0.3 to 0.5 mg/m3
Disinfecting a Bathroom
0.5 to 1 mg/m3
Automotive Garage Fumes
1 to 3 mg/m3
Spraying Pesticides Inside
How to Remove VOCs
The good news is that there are three easy and effective ways to ensure that your indoor environment is clean and free of dangerous VOCs.
- Control and remove the sources of VOCs: Eliminating the sources of VOC vapors should be your first step. For example, avoid harsh chemicals and store things like paint, fuel, and chemicals far away from your living space. Choose nontoxic cleaning products and shop for low or no-VOC paints and finishes. Many common household products are packed with VOCs. So, simply removing them is a quick and practical method that will immediately improve your air quality.
- Use as directed: Never mix chemicals such as household cleaners, unless directed to do so on the label. Mixing chemicals can result in the creation of deadly gases or volatile reactions. Always store household products that contain chemicals according to manufacturers' instructions. And keep all products away from children and pets!
- Bring in fresh air: Outdoor, fresh air can help to improve your air quality. Increasing ventilation may be especially beneficial in modern, energy-efficient homes and apartments, which are built relatively airtight to save on energy costs but can end up trapping and circulating VOCs. However, be aware that outdoor air also introduces new particles like pollen and other air pollution, which can trigger allergy or asthma symptoms, as well as other respiratory issues.
- Get a True HEPA air purifier for VOCs: For a truly healthy indoor environment, you must actively remove VOC chemical particles, as well as the allergens and other irritants that can come from outside. You'll need an air purifier with appropriate capacity for your room and one that's equipped with a True HEPA Carbon filter, such as the Alen BreatheSmart True HEPA Air Purifier, which is designed to actively combat and cleanse airborne hazards like volatile organic compounds.
Best Air Purifiers for Removing VOCs
Alen True HEPA (H13) medical-grade filtration captures 99.99% of harmful particles down to 0.1 microns—including allergens, dust, mold, bacteria, aerosolized viruses, and more.
Our proprietary Carbon FreshPlus filters target VOC chemicals and dangerous fine particles, and unwanted odors. Alen’s added layer of activated carbon contains microscopic cracks and holes which effectively trap dangerous airborne gases and chemicals while removing unwanted odors.
But we don’t stop there.
What makes Alen genuinely different? (Hint: The same reasons that earn Alen thousands of 5-star customer reviews) Our personalized purifiers are:
- Effective – Circulate more clean air throughout your room more quietly than competitors ( up to 2X more). Anyone that has had a noisy air purifier knows how important it is to invest in an air system that runs quietly and efficiently 24/7. When it’s time to sleep, relax to BreatheSmart’s soothing pink noise frequency, which has been proven to improve sleep.
- Customizable – Match your air purifier system to your space, taste, and style. Choose from a variety of sizes and colors that suit your room. All of our air purifiers have replaceable front panels, so you can change your air purifier to match almost any color scheme. We can also help you find the right size purifier for your space, to ensure that your air is being purified completely and consistently.
- Guaranteed for Life – Saving you money. Many things aren’t made to last anymore, but we want you to feel 100% comfortable investing in one of our air purifiers. Alen offers the industry’s only Forever Guarantee, backed by an expert in-house customer support team, for lifetime peace of mind.
The quiet yet powerful, the BreatheSmart FIT50 (pictured with optional Brushed Stainless cover) purifies up to 900 SqFt. It’s equipped with Alen’s FreshPlus Carbon True HEPA filter.
Remove VOCs from Your Home Now
Get started on the path to cleaner, healthier air by following our steps to remove VOCs from your home or business. If you would like to learn more about how our air purifiers can remove VOCs from your space, please browse our selection of top-rated air purifiers or check out our buying guide to find out which system is best for your needs!