Are All TVOCs Harmful?

The short answer: No.  

The long answer:

TVOCs are the total of a group of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Before answering the question above, here are some basics that you need to know:

  • Some VOCs are very harmful, like formaldehyde and benzene. These are present in glues and paints and are often found in cigarettes, vehicle emissions, appliances, cleaning products, furniture, carpeting, and personal products.
  • Some VOCs are less harmful and come from natural sources such as plants (green leaf volatiles) and people (human bio-effluent VOCs).
  • Because VOCs are a group of organic compounds that includes both natural and man-made carcinogenic pollutants, it is sometimes difficult to clearly determine if the source is harmful.

However, some studies show that even natural sources of TVOCs, like human bio-effluents, can cause a higher cortisol response in an environment with higher bio-effluent concentrations for a prolonged period of time. While there isn’t any research indicating that these cause long term harm, we know that they can still cause a stress response to the body.

In other words, the lower the TVOC levels, the better from a safety and general well-being standpoint.