What are VOCs, and are they really in the air we breathe?
VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemicals that are released from certain materials. These compounds can be harmful to our health and can cause various short- and long-term health problems. In this guide, we will discuss VOCs, whether they are really in the air we breathe and how air purifiers can help remove them.
What are VOCs?
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) or solvents are chemicals emitted as gases which can easily evaporate at room temperature. Organic compounds consist of carbon and hydrogen atoms. VOCs are a special organic compound category that contains additional atoms like chlorine, bromine or fluorine.
VOCs come from a variety of sources, both natural and manufactured. Things like car exhausts, gasoline, plastics, adhesives, carpeting, cosmetics, paints, building materials and household products can all release VOCs into the air.
How do VOCs get released into the air?
VOCs enter the air we breathe in a variety of ways. Some VOCs are released into the air when we use products like spray paint, hair spray, cleaning products, and pesticides. Other VOCs come from burning fuel for energy. Vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities release VOCs when they burn gasoline, diesel, coal, and natural gas. Cigarette smoke is also a major source of VOCs.The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology reported that “it is estimated that less than 5% of the VOCs (2.3 million tonnes per year, expressed in terms of carbon) emitted into the atmosphere are emitted from vegetation. The rest comes from transport, including distribution and extraction losses (50%), solvent use (30%) and other industrial processes (15%). Road transport alone accounts for 30% of VOC emissions” (UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology).
Are VOCs harmful?
Some VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. They have also been linked to respiratory problems, headaches and dizziness. In more severe cases, VOCs can cause damage to the central nervous system, the liver and the kidneys. Some researchers have even tested if VOCs can cause cancer, and while there is no definitive evidence that they are the sole cause of cancer, they have been linked to an increased risk of leukaemia and lymphoma.
Which everyday household products contain VOCs?
VOCs are commonly found in household cleaning products like bleach or disinfectants and are released into the air from many other household products we use.
The most common household products containing VOCs are:
- Air fresheners
- Cleaning products and disinfectants
- Paints and Varnishes
- Glues and Adhesives
- Pesticides and insect repellents
Which rooms in a home are likely to contain higher VOC levels?
The rooms in a home likely to contain higher levels of VOCs are:
- The kitchen
- The bathroom
- The laundry room
- The garage
This is because these are the rooms where we generally use the most cleaning and other VOC-emitting products.
Alternative ways to prevent breathing in VOCs
There are some other things you can do to prevent breathing VOCs:
- Open windows and doors regularly to let fresh air in.
- Use fans or extractor fans when cooking, cleaning or using VOC products.
- Keep the humidity level in your home low.
- Don’t allow any smoking indoors.
- Choose VOC-free or low-VOC products when possible.
- Any high-VOC products should be stored away from your main living or workspace, i.e. in a storage unit or garage.
- Regularly dispose of unused chemicals, i.e. old cleaning products or paints.
VOCs however can be difficult to avoid, especially in new-build homes or recently decorated houses with fresh coats of paint or furniture. At such times, air purifiers are a great solution to help remove harmful VOCs from the air.
How do air purifiers work to remove VOCs from the air?
RUHENS air purifiers work by forcing external air into the machine, where it passes through a series of up to 8 filters consisting of pre-filters, carbon filters, anti-allergy and HEPA filters. The central filter, called the HEPA H13, is designed to catch small particles like VOCs, pet hair, mould spores and common allergens such as household dust. The H13 central filter has a trapping efficiency rate close to 100%.
At the core of every RUHENS air purifier are twin UVC lights for increased disinfection and safety. While most other sterilisation forms struggle against viruses and bacteria, UVC light completely eradicates these microorganisms by causing cellular destruction.
In addition to the H13 filters and UV light technology, our medical-grade air purifiers also release negative ions into the room. Opposite to positively charged particles (such as dust, VOCs and mould spores), negatively charged particles attach themselves to positively charged particles. These heavier molecules then fall to the ground or are trapped in the filter resulting in cleaner and fresher-smelling airflow.
Best air purifiers against VOCs
The RUHENS WHA 320 UVC is a tower air purifier. With a slim and elegant design, this unit requires limited floor space and can clean the air in rooms up to 70m². The dust sensor on this device is sensitive enough to detect PM2.5 (ultrafine particles), which means it can also filter out airborne viruses and allergens.
For smaller spaces or desks, the RUHENS WHA 200 and RUHENS WHA 500 room or portable air purifiers are also great options for VOC removal. Their 4-stage filtration system and UVC light technology are designed to clean the air in rooms up to 35m² and 45m², respectively, whilst only measuring 30cm in height.
The benefits of renting an air purifier to remove VOCs
Consider renting an air purifier for as little as £3.99 per week to improve the air quality in your home or workplace without investing hundreds of pounds upfront.
Not only is this a cost-effective way to improve indoor air quality, but you also have the option to try out different models and see which works best for your space.
At Air Care Solutions, we offer a wide range of medical-grade VOC air purifiers for rent, so you can find the perfect one for your needs. Our team of experts are on hand to help you choose the right air purifier and answer any questions you may have.
Some of the benefits of renting an air purifier from Air Care Solutions include the following:
- Free delivery
- Free expert installation
- Unlimited callouts with free filter replacements and sanitation visits included
- Flexible rental terms with one regular payment
- Option to upgrade at the end of service agreement
You can upgrade your air purifier at any time. To learn more about our rental options, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do VOCs stay in the air?
The amount of time a VOC remains in the air depends on its volatility (the ease with which it evaporates) and environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Generally speaking, the more volatile a compound is, the shorter it will remain in the air. Some VOCs can disappear in minutes, while others may take days or weeks to dissipate.
What level of VOCs is dangerous?
Very high levels of VOCs can be dangerous, e.g. spraying pesticides (1 to 3 mg/m3), but even low levels, like 0.5 to 1 mg/m3 emitted from car fumes, can be harmful (Alen.com). Some VOCs are more dangerous than others,e .g. Benzene is known to cause cancer. Other VOCs, such as formaldehyde, can irritate the respiratory system and may cause asthma attacks. It’s important to avoid exposure to VOCs when possible, regularly ventilate a room, or opt for low VOC products, i.e. paints with VOC levels less than 0.3 mg/m3.
Why are VOC levels higher in new builds than in traditional houses?
The higher levels of VOCs in new builds vs traditional houses are due to synthetic materials used in new homes, such as plastics, solvents, insulation materials and adhesives. These materials release VOCs into the air, which can cause problems like headaches, dizziness, and nausea. People with asthma or allergies may be especially sensitive to VOCs.
Do cleaning products give off VOCs?
Most cleaning products give off VOCs, but there are a few that do not. When choosing cleaning products, look for those that are labelled “low-VOC” or “no-VOC”. These products will emit fewer VOCs into the air and will be better for your indoor air quality. Look for natural cleaners as well, as they often do not give off VOCs at all.
Are VOCs the same as formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde and VOCs are both gases that can be released into the air, but they are not the same thing. Formaldehyde is a type of VOC, but there are many other kinds of VOCs. VOCs can come from a variety of sources, including cleaning products, paint, and even some foods. Some VOCs are more harmful than others, but all of them can contribute to air pollution. Formaldehyde is one of the most dangerous VOCs because it is a known carcinogen. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause a variety of health problems.