What is VOC?

What is VOC? VOC definition

Have you ever walked into a department store and noticed that your nose begins to run and your eyes are watering after a few minutes? Does repainting your kid’s bedroom give you a headache that lasts for hours? Do you feel slightly nauseated after new cabinetry or carpeting has been installed in your home? If so, you might have VOC chemical sensitivity. Researchers are uncovering more evidence of what items can emit these harmful chemicals and who, exactly, is most susceptible to their negative effects.

What is VOC?

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, which the EPA defines VOCs as gases emitted from certain solids or liquids, like paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, furnishings, adhesives, permanent markers and more. Categorically, a VOC can encompass a medley of chemicals, and some of those have varying degrees of both short- and long-term adverse health effects. Due to an indoor environment’s natural lack of natural ventilation, levels of many VOCs are usually higher in buildings and home (up to 10 time higher) than outdoor environments.

Outside, a VOC can dissipate rather quickly; indoors, it disperses much slower, meaning anyone subjected to that indoor space is inhaling concentrated chemicals. Modern homes are being built to be more efficient, and are often designed to improve the efficacy of heating and cooling systems. This unintended negative side effect of this is that VOCs then have a harder time escaping through window cracks or poorly-insulated attics. The VOCs will then stay trapped longer in a home or office building, which increases the likelihood of human exposure.

Bob Vila — a name synonymous with home improvement and repair — notes that a phenomenon known as “off-gassing” is particularly problematic when it comes to VOCs. Off gassing (sometimes called outgassing) is the release of chemicals from various substances under normal conditions of temperature and pressure. Vila explains that as VOCs break down, they release gas into the air — and these gases can cause headaches, nausea, watery eyes, sore throats and more. A VOC may or may have detectable odors — so simply being able to smell the chemical is not the best indicator of potential health risks.

What produces VOCs?

Buildings.com, a community of facility managers and building owners responsible for the operation of commercial and public buildings, notes that “finishes and paints have numerous chemicals that are toxic, many of which are simply for keeping it liquid while it’s in the can….Furniture is a [another] common culprit because so many materials, from coatings and glues to particle board and upholstery, can contain VOCs.”

Infographic Types of VOCs: Building Materials: carpets and adhesives, sealing caulk, paint, composite wood products, upholstery fabrics, solvents, varnishes, vinyl flooring; home and personal products: air fresheners, fuel oil and gasoline, cosmetics, ozone producing products, cleaning products, moth balls, vehicle exhaust; fuel and machinery: cooking, dry cooking, photocopies, space heaters, dry cleaning, photocopiers, space heaters, dry cleaning, tobacco smoke, wood-burning stoves, stored paint and chemicals;

How to minimize off-gassing and VOC exposure?

One of the main ways to reduce the effects of off-gassing and VOC exposure, according to home expert Vila, is to “…[ventilate] a newly furnished room for at least a week after installation and always [buy] no- or low-VOC products when possible.”

If fresh air won’t aggravate your allergy or asthma symptoms, and the weather is permitting, opening doors and windows can allow an air exchange to occur, which can allow built-up fumes, odors and chemicals to escape. But with this method, just as harmful contaminants can exit your home, other irritants can enter at the same time. Pollen, wood smoke, mold spores, and other pollutants can waft in through open doors and windows, too.

For many people, a smarter option is to equip their home or office with the right air purifier. With technology advancing at such a fast rate, new options for air purification are rapidly entering the marketplace and into the hands of consumers with specific respiratory needs.

Our Picks

Allergy Buyers Club specializes in offering customers the best selection of air purifiers to suit their home and business. Depending on the size of your home, your particular area of concern, and your price point, we have the right air purifier to help you dramatically improve your indoor air quality.

AirPura R600 Air Purifier

Airpura R600 Air Purifier

The Airpura R600 is a great all purpose air purifier that’s capable or removing VOCs from the air. It features a cleanable pre-filter, true HEPA filtration and a powerful motor to quickly and quietly clean the air in a room up to 1650 square feet, achieving 2 air changes per hour.

  • Removes chemicals, odors, gaseous contaminants and harmful particles from the indoor air
  • Traps carbon dust and particles 1 micron and greater
  • Absorbs airborne chemicals, noxious gases and odors
  • Features 2 anti-microbial filters
  • All Airpura Air Purifiers have a sealed design, felt gaskets and all metal housing to prevent off-gassing and are safe for MCS sufferers

Read the reviews for the Airpura R600 here! 

IQair Health Pro Air Purifier

IQAir New Edition GC Series Air Purifier

The IQAir GC Multigas Air Purifier is a top choice for VOC removal of gaseous and chemical contaminants. It’s equipped with with a high-efficiency HEPA pre-filter and four large gas filter cartridges.

  • Reduces wide-range of specific gaseous chemicals and odors
  • Covers upto 1125 sq. ft. (2 air changes/hr) 
  • Ideal in both residential or commercial environments
  • GC HEPA pre-filter captures coarse and ultra-fine particles, with 99% efficiency at 0.3 microns and larger (EN1822 class 11)
  • GC MultiGas™ Gas & Odor filter cartridge set: 12 lbs. granular activated carbon & impregnated alumina
  • GC Post-filter sleeve set to capture carbon dust from gas & odor filters
  • Triple seal design prevents air leakage
  • 6 fan speeds

Read the reviews for the IQAir GC Multigas Air Purifier here! 

Blueair Prom M Air Purifier

Blueair PRO M Air Purifier

The Blueair PRO M is designed for quiet, high efficiency pollutant removal, like VOCs in bedrooms, nurseries, and offices. Its small stature, contemporary appearance and whisper quiet operation guarantee an uninterrupted, healthy nights sleep.

  • For high-efficiency particle removal and odor control
  • Room coverage: 937 sq. ft (2 air changes/hr) 
  • Optional Air Intelligence Module for auto mode
  • Captures 99.97% of all particles down to 0.1 microns
  • Internal ionizer – zero ozone emission
  • Optional carbon-based filter kits allow for easy customization 

Read the reviews for the Blueair PRO M Air Purifier! 

Austin Air – Air Purifier

Austin Air Healthmate Air Purifier

The Austin Air HealthMate is a preferred air cleaner for general airborne allergens and household odor, gaseous VOCs and chemical control. And it’s a fantastic value for those on a budget!

  • Removes airborne particles, micro-organisms, chemicals, gaseous contaminants and odors
  • Covers up to 938 sq. ft. (2 air changes/hr)
  • Features a medical grade HEPA filter for allergen removal
  • High grade carbon for odor, chemical and gaseous contaminants reduction
  • Removes 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns
  • Made in the USA

Read the reviews for the Austin Air Healthmate Air Purifier here!