What Are VOCs? Everything You Need to Know About Volatile Organic Compounds

You are probably already familiar with most of the substances that air purifiers remove from home air. Impurities like dander, pollen, dust or cigarette smoke are quite common in everyday life. One class of contaminant you might not be familiar with, though, is VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These compounds, though less familiar, can be some of the most dangerous indoor air pollutants. In this post, we’ll be answering the question of “What are VOCs,” providing examples of VOCs and helping you better understand what you can do about volatile organic compounds in your home.


  Just What Are VOCs?


Simply put, VOCs are any carbon-based compound that can evaporate at room temperature and become airborne. VOCs don’t include gases, such as carbon dioxide and monoxide, but do include more complex organic compounds with low boiling points. VOCs are often produced by products or objects in your home. As you’ll see in the next section, you may be completely surrounded by sources of volatile organic compounds.


  Examples of VOCs


The next step in answering the question of “what are VOCs” is to identify some common ones. Some of the most common examples of VOCs include formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. What’s scary about VOCs, though, isn’t just what they are, but where they are. Any number of household products contain volatile organic compounds, including:


  • Paints
  • Air fresheners
  • Composite wood boards used in furniture
  • Upholstery


As you can see, products that could emit VOCs are extremely common. At this point, you might be asking yourself “What are VOCs doing in all of these products?” The quick answer is that volatile organic compounds aren’t special, rare chemicals, but ones that you can find in any number of manufacturing processes. The problem is that they can concentrate in home air. As VOCs build up, they can cause and contribute to a variety of health issues.


  What Makes Volatile Organic Compounds Dangerous?


Like any other home air contaminant, VOCs enter your body through your respiratory system. When this happens, they can cause problems such as irritation, coughing and even severe headaches if they are concentrated enough. If you suffer from COPD, asthma or similar chronic conditions, they can also aggravate your existing symptoms. In extremely high concentrations, VOCs can contribute to the risk of cancer, though these cases are fairly rare.


  How to Protect Yourself


Now that we’ve answered the question “What are VOCs,” the next one that comes up is “How do you protect yourself from them?” The best way to reduce or eliminate the amount of volatile organic compounds in your home air is to use an air purifier with carbon filtration. Carbon filters capture gases and VOCs, keeping them from circulating. Here are some of our top air purifiers for handling the common examples of VOCs explained above:



If you aren’t sure whether or not your home has a VOC problem, you can also use a home air quality monitor, like the Foobot unit, to determine the VOC levels in the air you’re breathing.


We hope this blog post has answered some of your most important questions about VOCs, such as “What are VOCs” and “Why are they dangerous?” If you have other questions about volatile organic compounds or how to protect yourself from them, feel free to contact us directly. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you pick out an air purifier that will help protect you from these dangerous contaminants. If you want to see more options, you can also check out our complete selection of air purifiers for VOCs.