Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Canadian Air Quality. Resource by Camfil, CA


In this blog post Segment Leader for Molecular Contamination Control, Victor Rengel,  describes volatile organic compounds (VOCs), summarizes the impacts on the health of Canadians, and shares steps to reduce exposure.  

Pesticides, disinfectants, and cosmetics are all products that are commonplace either at home or at work. These products all release organic compounds when used, and to some degree, when stored. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases and are composed of a variety of chemicals. Not all VOCs are harmful; they can be immensely beneficial for wildlife. For instance, they can act as attractants for pollinators or even as protection against predators1. However, some VOCs, particularly anthropogenic (man made) VOCs, can result in chronic health effects when emitted into the air2. Therefore, knowing how to reduce exposure is important for the health of Canadians. 

What Are VOCs and Where Are They Sourced? 

Health Canada classifies VOCs as organic compounds or chemicals that have a low boiling point that ranges roughly from 50 – 250 degrees celsius3. This relates to the volatility of VOCs, or how easily the organic chemicals vapourize. As VOCs have a high vapour pressure and low boiling point, a vast number of molecules are released and absorbed in the air4.   

Concentrations of most VOCs can be many times higher indoors than outdoors. Some common sources are5:     

  • Paints and other solvents 
  • Aerosol sprays 
  • Cleansers 
  • Automotive products 
  • Building furnishings 
  • Office supplies  

As many Canadians are oftentimes in the presence of VOCs in their daily lives, potential health impacts must be highlighted. 

What Are the Health Impacts of Exposure to VOCs? 

As with other air pollutants, health effects can vary based on toxicity and the extent of exposure.            

Some key indications of exposure to VOCs are:           

  • Headache 
  • Allergic skin reaction 
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness 
  • Nose and throat discomfort 

More long-term health impacts can include: 

  • Loss of coordination and consistent nausea 
  • Damage to organs such as the liver and kidney
  • Damage to central nervous system 
  • Cancer in animals and suspected of causing cancer in humans 

Moreover, studies show that indoor air pollution from VOCs and other components such as particulate matter, smoke, and allergens are associated with the persistence and severity of asthma morbidity6. As health effects can be quite serious, reducing exposure is ideal when possible. 

How Can Canadians Reduce Exposure to VOCs? 

Canadians can reduce exposure to harmful VOCs by meeting label precautions, properly storing products, ensuring good air circulation, and not mixing products. Furthermore, it is important to minimize the use of scented products and to remove unnecessary products. When removing VOC-emitting products, ensure they are disposed of safely and contact local municipalities and relevant garbage disposal councils for instruction7

To increase protection in the case that control methods cannot be assumed, Canadians should increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs. As VOCs are gases, they require a specific filtering technique known as “adsorption”. Therefore, molecular air filtration applications are most suitable.

What Air Filtration Products Effectively Remove VOCs? 

Although VOCs encompass millions of gases, we offer a variety of solutions that  dramatically reduce the most common VOCs found in the environment and drastically improve air quality. 

The CityPleat air filters are constructed from pleated embedded or combination media that provides control of both particles and molecular contaminants. CityPleat provides moderate performance and is intended for low impact indoor air quality (IAQ) and comfort applications. These filters are available in a range of standard sizes and thicknesses to suit filter tracks or frames in housings. CityPleat utilises a broad spectrum carbon to provide efficiency against a very wide range of airborne chemicals. The filters operate with a Rapid Adsorption Dynamics (RAD) mechanism that ensures maximum performance against the multiple chemicals that are typically present in city-centre buildings.

The CityCarb range includes the following models: CityCarb E, CityCarb I and CityCarb CH. All the filters operate with a rapid adsorption dynamics (RAD) mechanism that ensures high efficiency against the various chemicals typically present in city-centre buildings. A large media area ensures high efficiency, long life and low pressure drop.

CityCarb models E and I utilise a broad spectrum carbon layer to ensure removal of a very wide range of airborne chemicals. CityCarb CH is ideal for cultural heritage buildings. 

CamCarb Cylinders, CamCarb VG300 and CamCarb VG440 can be filled with activated carbon for the removal of moderate to high concentrations of VOCs. In industrial applications with a very high concentration of contaminants, Vertical Deep Bed (VDB) filters in the ProCarb family of products are most suitable.

For more on Camfil molecular media: How Does Air Filtration for Gaseous Pollution Work? Media Types for Gaseous Contamination     

For more targeted protection from VOCs in a smaller space, the City M Air Purifier has a combination HEPA/gas removal filter that allows for healthier employees, lower energy costs, and less cleaning. As this air cleaner is free-standing, installment in mechanical ventilation is not required. 

There are a variety of factors that determine which clean air solutions work best for the removal of VOCs. Be sure to contact an experienced air filtration consultant to find choices right for your building. 

About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions 

For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier. 

The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 33​ manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 30 countries, and about 4,80​0 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil Canada can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.com/en-ca/


Media Contact: 

Holly Gardner 

Camfil Canada Inc. 

T: 437-929-1161

E: Holly.Gardner@camfil.com 

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