Did you know? The air inside your home is more polluted than the air outside. Among the most common pollutants are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Formaldehyde (HCHO), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Fine Particles (PM).

What are VOCs? What are the health impacts? Where do they come from? How to detect them? We answer these questions for you!

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Published on 11 March 2024

What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

In this article:

What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

VOCs are a group of chemical substances that adversely affect Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). These particles can be present without emitting odors. However, some of them can release them in high concentrations. Under normal conditions of pressure and temperature, VOCs are highly volatile, rapidly changing from liquid to gas. They can be found in homes, offices and workshops. In high doses, they present a real danger to the health and well-being of occupants.


The impact of VOCs

For most Volatile Organic Compounds, concentrations present in the indoor environment do not usually pose a hazard (at low levels). However, if an individual’s exposure to these pollutants lasts too long, it represents a danger. Exposure to VOCs can affect occupants and may cause :

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat

Those most at risk are people with health problems such as asthma, lung disease or bronchitis. What’s more, children, pregnant women and the elderly are among the most sensitive to this pollution.

Some VOCs, if present in significant quantities in the air, can have carcinogenic effects on the body. They are capable of causing gene mutations and reproductive toxicity.


What are the sources of VOC emissions?

VOCs are sometimes odorless and invisible. What’s more, these particles are produced in several different ways. They can come from products and other equipment such as :

  • Building products
  • Decorations
  • Furniture
  • Types of heating (burning wood in the chimney)
  • Paints, glues, varnishes, etc.

Poor ventilation can also have an impact on VOC levels. In this case, the indoor air is not properly renewed.

Our daily habits can have a negative impact on VOC levels. The use of solvents, cleaners or aerosols increases the rate. These products contain chemical substances which are harmful when inhaled in excessive doses.

The use of candles and incense releases these particles and degrades IAQ, as does smoking. Work such as painting, gluing floor coverings or using varnishes releases VOCs.

This pollution also varies with external conditions. The seasons influence VOC levels in enclosed spaces. In winter, when heating is on and spaces are confined, VOC concentrations are higher, posing a health risk.


How to eliminate volatile organic compounds?

To deal with VOCs, all you have to do is apply a few simple gestures:

  1. Ventilate enclosed spaces daily, especially in new buildings. New materials emit contaminants that are invisible to the naked eye, but can be dangerous for occupants. Open windows at least 10 minutes a day.
  2. Maintain air inlets, CMVs and extract units frequently. When these devices are properly maintained, the air in the space in question can be properly renewed.
  3. Choose furniture and materials with A+ labels. In case of renovation, check the packaging. Since 2013, these products have been required to carry a health label providing information on pollutant emissions.
  4. Use “traditional” cleaning products such as black soap, white vinegar, lemon juice, etc. Choose a multi-purpose product rather than several different products to avoid interactions between different substances.
  5. Limit strong-smelling products such as scented candles and incense.
  6. Open the window when cooking, especially when frying. Opt for a connected or filtered hood to limit the spread of VOCs.
  7. Get a Volatile Organic Compounds sensor


These daily actions will help limit VOC emissions and maintain optimum Indoor Air Quality in your home or building.

VOC detectors from Nexelec

The presence of these compounds in an enclosed space is difficult to detect unless you use a device called a Volatile Organic Compound sensor. Nexelec has a wide range of sensors capable of measuring and analyzing this pollution for you. Intelligent and connected, the VOC sensor incorporates the latest technologies. It takes measurements remotely and stores them in a secure cloud.

What’s more, the products are also capable of detecting many other pollutants such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), noise, brightness, presence and Formaldehyde (HCHO). To help you better manage your heating strategies, the devices measure room temperature and humidity.


IAQ is a major issue for our health and well-being. Volatile Organic Compounds are harmful substances that travel through indoor and outdoor air and can have negative effects on the human body. VOCs go beyond unpleasant odors and can lead to symptoms such as nausea, headaches and respiratory problems. Purchasing a sensor like those offered by Nexelec, capable of measuring the VOC content of an enclosed space, will enable you to monitor IAQ effectively. This will enable you to develop appropriate air renewal strategies.