100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and where they are found in the home

Updated on April 3, 2024
Written by
James Booth
James has over ten years experience as a content producer and editor. He focuses on writing articles that are compelling, clear and, more importantly, helpful to the readers. He honed his research and copywriting skills working as part of NeoMam Studios, the parent company of HouseFresh.

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are present almost anytime you can smell fumes or scents in your home. Some VOCs are harmless, while others have hazardous effects on your health. 

Many household items leech and spread VOCs, such as:

  • New clothes, curtains, rugs, flooring, upholstery and furniture
  • Fuels, solvents, adhesives, paints and hobby supplies
  • Cleaning supplies, deodorizers, aerosols and personal care products. 

Higher levels of VOCs are detected inside than outside. If you want to combat the accumulation of VOCs in your home, invest in an air purifier. Be sure to pick a product that suits the dimensions and requirements of your space.

Contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect you suffer from VOC exposure.

What exactly are VOCs and why must we be aware of them? 

Perhaps you’ve heard about ‘Volatile Organic Compounds’ health risks. Maybe you’ve seen the acronym on your feed and want to know what VOCs are about. Either way, we can help you crack the case on VOCs. 

In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive long list of every known VOC and the potential sources for each one. You’ll also discover precisely what VOCs are and how they might affect your health. 

However you decide to handle volatile organic compounds, you must have all the facts. 

What are VOCs? 

VOCs are ‘Volatile Organic Compounds.’ These compounds are characterized by their extremely low boiling points. They quickly become vaporous, so they are considered ‘volatile.’

Most smells we can detect with the human nose are byproducts of volatile organic compounds. Many animals, including humans, have strong responses to various VOCs. These responses can be emotional, intuitive, hormonal, or medical. 

Perfumes are made of VOCs that vaporize on our warm skin and release pleasant scents. Organic odors, flowers and hormonal scents are all spread via VOCs. Unfortunately, perfumes and flowers aren’t the full VOC story.

Many chemical compounds contain VOCs, some of which pose significant health risks. Unfortunately, these compounds are frequently used in various household products. Household cleaners, polishes, paints, waxes, adhesives and degreasing solutions release potentially harmful VOCs.

Homes are hotbeds of VOCs. They are often found at concentrations 2-5 times higher inside than outside — in urban and rural residences. This is due to VOC build-up from furniture, clothes, cleaning products and polishes.

Where do VOCs come from? List of 100 sources of VOCs at home

Anything you can smell (and some things you can’t) leech VOCs into your home. Here is our VOCs master list:

FormaldehydeFurniture, carpets, plywood, paints, adhesives, cosmetics, certain insulation materials
BenzeneCigarettes, stored fuels, paints, glues, carpeting, furniture
ToluenePaints, adhesives, rubber, leather tanners, disinfectants
XylenePaints, varnishes, cleaning agents
Ethylene GlycolAntifreeze, detergents, paints, carpets
AcetoneNail polish remover, furniture polish, wallpaper
StyreneCarpets, adhesives, hobby supplies, insulation
Perchloroethylene (Perc)Dry-cleaning products, metal degreasers, paint removers
Methylene ChloridePaint strippers, adhesive removers, aerosol spray products
1,4-DioxaneDetergents, shampoos, cosmetics
NaphthaleneMothballs, cigarettes, exhaust fumes
Carbon DisulfideInsect repellents, rubber cement, certain fabrics
TrichloroethyleneAdhesive removers, carpet cleaning fluids
Vinyl ChloridePVC pipes, wire coatings, vehicle upholstery
DichlorobenzeneMothballs, toilet deodorizers, air fresheners
ChloroformChlorinated water, certain cleaners and disinfectants
TerpenesEssential oils, air fresheners, cleaning products, cosmetics
LimoneneCitrus-scented and flavored products, cleaning agents
PinenePine or other “green” scented cleaners, air fresheners, paints
MethanolWindshield washer fluid, solid fuels, paint removers
EthanolAlcoholic beverages, cleaners, paints, personal care products
2-butoxyethanol (EGBE)Paint strippers, window cleaners, carpet cleaners
AcroleinCooking oils, tobacco smoke, burning candles
IsopreneVehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, certain personal care products
Tetrahydrofuran (THF)Adhesives, magnetic tape, PVC cement
Propylene GlycolDe-icing fluids, laundry detergent, cosmetics
Ethyl AcetateNail polish remover, glues, paints
2-EthoxyethanolPaints, varnishes, cleaning products
ButanalResins, rubber, plastics
HexaneGlues, cleaning agents, paint thinners
PhenolResins, textiles, detergents
CyclohexaneOil-based paints, varnishes
Methyl Isobutyl Ketone (MIBK)Lacquers, paint strippers, adhesives
OctaneGasoline, paints, adhesives
IsobutaneRefrigeration coolants, fuel, aerosol propellant
Methyl MethacrylateResins, floor polishes, paints
1,2-Dichloroethane (DCE)Solvents, degreasers
Dichloromethane (DCM)Paint strippers, degreasers
Tetrachloroethene (PCE)Dry cleaning fluids, degreasers
Carbon TetrachlorideCleaning agents, degreasers
Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE)Gasoline, paint thinners
Vinyl AcetateAdhesives, textiles, paper coatings
AcetaldehydeDisinfectants, fruit and vegetable wash products
AcrylonitrilePlastics, synthetic rubbers
PhthalatesPlasticizers in PVC items, toys, flooring, food packaging
Butyl AcrylateAdhesives, sealants, paints
Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)Paint thinners, varnishes, lacquers
EthylbenzenePaints, inks, adhesives
Methyl ChlorideRefrigerants, aerosol propellants
MethylcyclohexaneSolvents, paint removers
MethylcyclopentaneSolvents, paint removers
2-PropanolCleaning agents, disinfectants
PropionaldehydeResins, plastics, rubber
Propyl AcetateInks, coatings, adhesives
Propylene OxidePolyurethane foams, fumigants
Styrene MonomerPlastics, resins, rubber
Toluene Diisocyanate (TDI)Polyurethane foams, coatings
TrichlorofluoromethaneRefrigerants, aerosol propellants
Vinyl Chloride MonomerPVC resins, coatings
Xylenes (mixed isomers)Paint thinners, varnishes, pesticides
Isopropyl AlcoholDisinfectants, antiseptics, cleaning agents
AcetonitrileAdhesives, pharmaceuticals, photography films
AcrylamideContact lenses, paper, dyes
Allyl ChlorideEpoxy resins, water treatment
AnilineRubber, dyes, pharmaceuticals
Benzyl ChlorideDyes, pharmaceuticals, photographic materials
Bisphenol APlastics, epoxy resins, polycarbonate plastics
Butyl Benzyl PhthalatePVC flooring, car-care products
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)Food packaging, cosmetics
Cadmium & Cadmium CompoundsBatteries, pigments, coatings
CaprolactamNylon, polyurethanes
ChlorobenzeneDegreasers, moth repellents, chemical synthesis
ChlorodifluoromethaneRefrigerants, aerosol propellants
ChloroethaneRefrigerants, aerosol propellants
ChloroformChlorinated water, certain cleaners and disinfectants
ChloromethaneRefrigerants, aerosol propellants
Cobalt & Cobalt CompoundsPigments, rubber adhesion promoters
CresolDisinfectants, resins, wire insulation
CumeneGasoline, rubber, resins
CyclohexanolSolvents, oil extraction, textiles
Dibutyl PhthalatePVC plastics, printing inks
DicyclopentadieneInsecticides, resins, wire insulation
DiethanolamineTextile lubricants, pH adjusters, detergents
Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP)PVC plastics, adhesives, cosmetics
DimethylformamideResins, pharmaceuticals, acrylic fibers
EpichlorohydrinEpoxy resins, water treatment chemicals

What are the health effects of VOCs? 

Some VOCs are perfectly harmless. Others pose serious health risks. Let’s check out a few symptoms and health effects VOCs can cause.

Irritation of the sinuses and the respiratory system is common. 

This can manifest in symptoms such as:

  • Itchy or weepy eyes
  • Painful sinuses 
  • A sore or swollen throat
  • Nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath

Effects may worsen over time or present immediately. These can include serious issues such as:

  • Violent headaches
  • Nausea
  • Confusion and loss of coordination
  • Vomiting

VOC exposure can lead to permanent and life-threatening health conditions in worst-case scenarios. These include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Damage to the central nervous system
  • Cancers

If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may have been exposed to malignant VOCs:

  • Irritated eyes, sinuses, or throat
  • Headaches, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
  • Rashes or skin irritation
  • Nosebleeds
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue

If you want to reduce the airborne VOCs in your home, a good air purifier is worth investing in. Air purifiers filter VOCs out of the atmosphere and form a first line of defense against ill effects.

Final thoughts

All homes contain products and items that produce VOCs. These VOCs quickly accumulate — often reaching unsafe levels. Many people experience adverse effects on their health and well-being following prolonged VOC exposure. Consider investing in a suitable air purifier to avoid VOC exposure and prevent illness.

If you think you are suffering from VOC exposure, you should contact a medical professional for immediate assistance. 

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About the author

James Booth

James has over ten years experience as a content producer and editor. He focuses on writing articles that are compelling, clear and, more importantly, helpful to the readers. He honed his research and copywriting skills working as part of NeoMam Studios, the parent company of HouseFresh.

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