Volatile Organic Compounds – Breakdown

Your Airtopian analyst tested your home for airbourne pollutants including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Here you can find more information about what these pollutants are, how they affect you and what you can do to address any issues you have in your home.

Our Contamination Index ™ breaks down of your total volatile organic compound (TVOC) level into 16 different VOC source categories. It provides you with information on where the airborne chemicals are coming from and enables you to take steps to reduce or eliminate them. The remedial advice need only be taken when levels are higher than normal, however we also offer advice on how to maintain normal levels.

The following general steps will help you to manage if any of your results are above normal on the report you have received.

Remove — Where possible, eliminate the VOC source materials by removing them from your home.

Contain —  Improve the packaging or sealing of VOC source materials.

Reduce — Reduce the concentration of VOC source materials.

  • Consider low VOC alternatives
  • Increase ventilation (dilute the VOCs with fresh air)
  • Use houseplants to absorb certain airborne VOCs
  • Consider the use of an air purifier (to eliminate VOCs)

In  scenarios where VOC levels are particularly high, we would encourage you to call for specialist help. If you are experiencing symptoms (including, but not limited to frequent headaches, persistent cough, eyes, nose or throat irritation, or breathing difficulties), we encourage you to share your Airtopia results with your G.P.



 VOCs in this category may include acetone, isopropyl alcohol (IPA), n-butylacetate and ethylacetate. In the most severe cases chemical compounds in these products can be irritating and may cause headaches or respiratory irritation.

The source of VOCs in this category may include soap, deodorant, lotions, perfumes, hair colouring supplies, nail care supplies and oral hygiene products. These products contain a large number of VOCs that will dissipate if use is discontinued or reduced. Some chemical compounds associated with this category can also be found in cleaning products and building materials, which are possible alternative sources.



VOCs associated with this category include ethanol and isopropyl alcohol (IPA). Alcohol can be an irritant and may cause headaches or drowsiness.

The source of VOCs from this category include household cleaning products, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizers, some solvents, reed diffusers, consumable alcohol and some pharmaceuticals. Alcohol can also be found in some building materials, therefore consider recent renovation/construction as possible alternative sources.



VOCs in category include terpenes such as a-pinene and limonene.

The source of VOCs in this category may include scented candles, potpourri, air fresheners, scented cleaning products and scented personal care products. Some chemical compounds associated with this category can also be found in building materials, therefore recent renovation or construction could be an alternative source.



 The source of VOCs in this category may include typical dry-cleaning methods.

VOCs in this category are tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) and trichloroethane. Tetrachloroethylene  has been designated as a potential human carcinogen.



VOCs associated with this category include salicylates. These VOCs may cause health issues such as skin irritation, sore, itchy or puffy eyes, asthma, or headaches.

The source of VOCs in this category may include ointments, creams and topical first aid/pain relievers.



VOCs associated with this category include C10-C14   aliphatic hydrocarbons, TexanolTM ester alcohols, ethylene glycol and white spirit (Stoddard solvent).

This category includes both interior and exterior paints (including low- or no-VOC paints), varnishes, lacquers, some sealants, and other products that can be classified as a coating over a surface. VOCs from these products can often linger for several months after application, sometimes longer.  There is some overlap between chemical compounds associated with 'paints, varnishes and surface coatings' and those found in 'fuel oil, diesel fuel, kerosene’.



VOCs associated with this category include acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, cyclohexanone and tetrahydrofuran (THF).

This category relates to PVC cement, which is used to join pieces of PVC pipe together, usually for plumbing. Chemical compounds in these products can cause respiratory irritation and headaches.



VOCs associated with this category are FreonsTM including R134a, R152a, R12, R22, R142b, R11 and R141b.

These are highly potent greenhouse gases and contribute significantly to climate change.

The chemical compounds relating to this category are most often used as refrigerants for air conditioners and refrigerator/freezers and propellants for blown-in insulation, cushions, and aerosol cans. As a result of the Montreal Protocol, the manufacture of many of these compounds has been phased out or banned, but they still can be found in use.



The VOC associated with this category is toluene.

This category includes adhesives and glues used in construction and maintenance, arts and crafts, adhesive removers, contact cement, sealants, coatings (paint, polyurethane, lacquer, thinner) and automotive products, including parts cleaners. Other sources of contributing chemicals include fuels like petrol.



VOCs associated with this category are benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Benzene is a known carcinogen.

VOCs from petroleum products are typically a result of off-gassing from petrol containers and petrol-powered equipment such as lawn mowers, chainsaws, cultivators, and motorcycles that are stored in garages attached to homes. This category does not however include exhaust emissions. Petroleum products include chemical compounds that are also included in the 'Light Solvents' category.



VOCs associated with this category include aliphatic hydrocarbons and naphthalene.

Compounds are often found in garages or in close proximity to oil central heating boilers and associated storage tanks. These fuels are not very volatile and do not readily evaporate into the air, however they can linger for a long time and produce a strong, unpleasant odour. This category does not include exhaust emissions. There is some overlap between chemical compounds associated with 'fuel oil, diesel fuel and kerosene' and those found in 'paints, varnishes, and surface coatings'.



The VOC associated with this category is naphthalene.

Sources of this category of VOC include Naphthalene-based moth balls, which have now largely been phased out owing to their flammability. These products may be present along with p-Dichlorobenzene-based insecticide/insect repellent (moth crystals).

Naphthalene is made from crude oil or coal tar. It is also produced when things burn and is found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and smoke from forest fires. It is used as an insecticide and pest repellent. Other less common sources of the same VOCs include urinal blocks, automotive component cleaners and gas treatments, some coatings (paints), sealers, fuel stabiliser, engine winter maintenance treatment, some herbicides/pesticides, and combustion. Naphthalene has been designated a potential human carcinogen.



The VOC associated with this category is p-Dichlorobenzene. P-Dichlorobenzene has been designated a potential human carcinogen.

Sources of this category of VOC include p-Dichlorobenzene-based moth crystals (may be present with Naphthalene-based moth balls), deodorant in waste containers and toilets, crop insecticide and fungicide. The same VOCs may also be associated with the manufacture of plastics, dyes, and pharmaceuticals, and thus may become part of the product and present in the home. For example, UK mattress firms Silent Night and Eve Sleep had to halt manufacturing in October 2017 after discovering excessive levels of dichlorobenzen (Telegraph).



Chemicals in this category include butane, isobutane and propane.

VOCs from this category may originate from building materials, aerosol cans, fuel for cooking/camping/lighters, LPG, refrigerants, natural gas, propellants and blowing agents. The compounds in this category  are non-toxic and generally do not represent significant health impacts, however, they are found in natural gas and are used in refrigerators (refrigerant gases). Their presence may therefore highlight the possibility of a gas leak or a refrigerant leak.



VOCs associated with this category are C6-C9 aliphatic hydrocarbons.

 The source of VOCs in this category may include white spirit, mineral spirits, some coatings (paints, varnish, and enamels), wax remover, adhesives, automotive products and light oils.

Many of these are present in common household products, however, recent renovation or construction will increase levels. VOCs from petrol and petroleum products can also contribute to the light solvents.




The VOC associated with this category is methylene chloride, which is a potential human carcinogen.

Methylene Chloride is found in automotive products, degreasing solvent, paint stripper, adhesive remover, aerosol propellant and insecticide.  These products are most likely to be located and/or used in a garage or workshop.



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Media Contact

For all media enquiries, please contact Charlotte Jackson.
charlotte.jackson@thehousedocs.co.uk Airtopia is available for expert comment on the science behind indoor air quality.


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