Why a VOC Air Purifier? It’s Allergy Season.

AllergiesJanuary 21, 2019

  Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are carbon based chemicals that exist as a gas at room temperature. They have a much deserved reputation as both a nuisance and a health risk. But, if you are hearing the term for the first time let’s get you up to speed.  Chemicals have three forms. They can be solids, liquids, or gasses. The form in which they exist at any particular moment in time will depend on the temperature. You are probably familiar with how this applies to water. There is ice when it freezes, liquid water, and water vapor when it boils. VOCs, in contrast, exist as a gas at normal temperature. VOCs come from material in your home. Things like glues used in carpeting, or finishes for wood products are a mixture of many different chemicals. Many of these chemicals such as Formaldehyde or Benzene are VOCs. So, they will evaporate and enter the air of your home. Because, VOC emission sources are more commonly found inside, VOCs are largely an indoor air issue.      EPA Identified Sources of VOCs
  • Household products, including:
  • paints, paint strippers and other solvents
  • wood preservatives
  • aerosol sprays
  • cleansers and disinfectants
  • moth repellents and air fresheners
  • stored fuels and automotive products
  • hobby supplies
  • dry-cleaned clothing
  • pesticide
  • Other products, including:
  • building materials and furnishings
  • office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
  • graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.
Indoor VOCs should be a concern for everyone. The EPA has linked VOC exposure to a number of respiratory and cardiac issues. However, allergy and asthma sufferers are likely at an even higher risk. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been compiling evidence for the connection between VOC exposure and increased allergy and asthma symptoms.  They have concluded that connection between the two is becoming clearer, and further study is urgent. They strongly recommend that allergy and asthma sufferers reduce their exposure to VOCs as much as possible.  Allergy season is right around the corner. In some parts of the country it will be in full swing by the end of the month. So, what can someone do to reduce their exposure to VOCs in their home before the riskiest time of the year for allergy and asthma symptoms? You can’t just move into a hypoallergenic bubble after all. The answer is a VOC air purifier.  VOC Air Purifiers A VOC air purifier is a device capable of removing ninety percent or more of the VOCs in your indoor air. However, not all air purifiers are VOC air purifiers. You can forget about anything that uses a filter. Even the highest grade HEPA filters (which will not be in your home) are too permeable to trap VOCs. The VOCs are just too small, having a size measured in millionths of a meter. Some filtration systems contain charcoal or activated carbon. However, most of these have what is called a honeycomb structure – it is shaped like a diamond. This construct does not create a large VOC absorbent surface area. There are engineering work arounds, but few carbon air purifiers adequately maximize for VOC absorbent surface area. The consequence is rapid saturation. And, with high CFM (cubic feet per minute) fans this problem is only enhanced. Filtration systems are not VOC air purifiers. Ozone will react with VOCs in the air, and remove them. However, Ozone Generators (also referred to as “Ionizers”) do not have any mechanism to control what the Ozone reacts with. It is just released into the air of your home. Ozone damages furniture and fabrics, and has been linked to many health problems itself. In fact, it is outright banned in many legal jurisdictions. Responsible public regulators like the EPA and California Air Resources Board agree that Ozone Generators do not make good VOC air purifiers.  There is one promising technology however that is both safe and effective as a VOC air purifier. It is called Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO). The PCO phenomenon was discovered by Japanese researchers, and later used by NASA to act as a VOC air purifier for spacecraft. Air is passed through a reaction chamber, where an activated catalyst produces a chemical species called a hydroxyl radical. The radical never leaves the surface of the catalyst, so it will not create another indoor air quality issue the way Ozone does. However, it completely eliminates VOCs when the radical collides with a VOC. The products of the chemical reaction occurring between a hydroxyl radical and a VOC are harmless carbon dioxide and water vapor. Of course, the trick to making this type of VOC air purifier as effective as NASA did, is to maximize the surface area where hydroxyl radicals can form. And, fortunately this has been accomplished for home VOC air purifiers.   The results of a good PCO air purifier are very promising, and have the potential to lessen the asthma and allergy effects VOCs are responsible for. Please note that not all PCO air purifiers are created equal. There is a lot of science and engineering that goes into the manufacture of a proper PCO air purifier. If hydroxyl radical producing surface area is not maximized, catalyst chemistry not perfect, or air flow too rapid, the system can actually produce the VOCs formaldehyde and acetylaldehyde. Both are linked to increased allergy and asthma symptoms. This effect observed in a 2006 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study with a PCO air purifier pushing air at 300 CFM (cubic feet per minute). Fortunately, there are PCO air purifiers that avoid these inhibitory problems, and are outstanding VOC air purifiers.   Allergy season is a rough time of year if you suffer with allergies or asthma. Likely your symptoms are being made worse by VOCs in the air of your home. Well thought out studies from very reputable institutions suggest this. But, there is an answer to this problem: A VOC air purifier. After assessing several of the prominent air purification technologies, it was concluded that a PCO air purifier makes the best VOC air purifier. Obtain one today for an easier, less symptomatic allergy season.