VOCs regularly off-gas into the atmospheric environment and mix into breathable air in homes and other occupied spaces. VOC concentrations exceeding threshold values can become a hazard to your health and wellbeing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers these pollutants dangerous indoors and outdoors in large enough concentrations.
Reduce Exposure in Your Home
The safest way to remove toxic VOC pollutants from your indoor air is to reduce the number of products you bring home that release them. VOC emissions continue even if a product is not being opened and used around the home frequently. Indoor air quality monitors make it possible to keep an eye on the concentrations of pollutants, volatile organic compounds, particulate matters, and other contaminants in your air. As long as a hazardous product is off-gassing in your home, the air quality will reduce. The first step to purifying your air is to change your buying and usage to include fewer toxic products.
Proper Storage and Ventilation
Indoor air quality generally improves with better ventilation. Getting more fresh air into enclosed spaces, especially spaces where VOC emission is a risk, can remove pollutants. Air quality indoors is often worse than outdoor air quality under normal circumstances because of the lack of fresh air being allowed in. Opening windows or doors, running a ventilation system, and other simple steps can improve your home’s indoor ventilation.
If your indoor storage spaces cannot be properly ventilated, consider storing off-gassing products (such as paint thinners with toluene) outdoors instead, in a shed or garage. Long-term exposure can be dangerous to your health. If you are continually in enclosed spaces with gaseous pollutants, you will be unable to avoid breathing them in and you may begin to experience adverse health symptoms as a result.
Activated Carbon Air Purification
Air filtration and purification systems are effective at improving air quality in your home, but you need to look for a specific type to reduce levels of VOCs. Devices named “air purifiers” act as vacuum cleaners, meaning the air is forced to go through filters which remove essentially… airborne particles, not VOCs! Activated carbon filtration is necessary to capture VOCs and remove them from the air.
Note: All pollutants in this category, including toluene, contain carbon, which is the reason they’re referred to as organic compounds.
Activated carbon air purifiers and filters can remove any VOC concentration from the air in an enclosed space, such as your home, office, workplace, or an indoor public space. They work by chemically attracting organic contaminants to be absorbed by the carbon inside. The activated carbon is highly porous, allowing it to hold more contaminants than regular carbon filters.
HEPA filters and other air purification systems are not able to capture toluene, to reduce benzene concentration, or to capture the majority of VOCs in your home. To effectively remove them from your home and improve your IAQ, you do need to use activated carbon in addition to or instead of other air filtration methods. Activated carbon will not remove all other airborne pollutants, but it’s the most consistently effective method for removing VOCs.
What are the common volatile organic compounds found at home? (Carbon based gas emissions labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency as health hazards upon exposure, not including carbon dioxide)
Complete list of VOCs emissions you should be aware of for your health and protection
Control IAQ by understanding the sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), reducing your VOC exposure, and monitoring concentrations in your indoor air