Do Air Purifiers Remove Benzene – How To Eliminate Exposure

Over 80 million Americans use air purifiers in their homes and offices to improve the indoor air quality by getting rid of different contaminants, which may include benzene. However, there are many different types of air purifiers and not all of them are able to remove benzene.

Air purifiers with an activated charcoal filter can capture benzene gas and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the indoor air. Air purifiers that rely solely on HEPA filters, UV-sterilization or ozone generation are ineffective against benzene. 

This article will take you through what benzene is, explain how it gets indoors, its effects and how to get rid of it. We will also explain how air purifiers remove benzene and provide a short list of the ones that do.

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What is benzene?

Benzene is an organic chemical compound that is made of only carbon and hydrogen.

Benzenes are known for their aromatic and typically sweet smell.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzene is highly flammable and appears as a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. However, benzene evaporates quickly and easy.

Because its vapor is heavier than air, benzene sinks below lighter air molecules and can accumulate in low-lying areas.

How people are exposed to Benzene

Many cases of acute benzene exposure are from industries. Workers in benzene-producing industries can be exposed to incredibly high amounts of this carcinogen. These include people such as:

  • chemical plant employees,
  • painters,
  • paper factory workers, and
  • oil refinery workers.

The general public are typically exposed to benzene in the outdoors through:

  • tobacco smoke,
  • exhaust from vehicles,
  • gas stations, and
  • industrial pollution.

Benzene is also used as a building block to create plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic fibers. Other goods that can expose you to this harmful carcinogen, include lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, medications, and insecticides.

One study showed that exposure to benzene can even result from our furnaces, water heaters, and gas heaters leaking natural gas.

Thankfully, benzene exposure from food and water is typically relatively low. Research shows that fish, dairy products, eggs, nuts, fruits, and vegetables contain very low quantities of benzene.

However, people may be exposed when their drinking water supply or wells are within half a mile of an underground storage tank that is leaking or from a benzene-contaminated water source.

If you are concerned about benzene contaminating your water supply, there is more detailed information on how best to remove it from water available from Water Purification Guide here.

How Benzene enters our home

There is no doubt that benzene exposures happens both in outdoor and indoor environments. However, because people tend to spend much of their quality time indoors, benzene exposure can become a very big concern.

Benzene exposure in our homes can be caused by the following;

  • Household products- Products containing benzene, such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents, can all release benzene into the air. Because it is a component of gasoline and is found in crude oil, benzene is extensively used as an industrial chemical to create plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, medicines, and insecticides. When people use these products, they can become exposed to benzene.
  • Wastes and filling stations- There may be high concentrations of benzene in the air near landfills for hazardous waste or gas stations. Therefore, you can be exposed if your home is nearby.
  • Underground leakage- Well water can become contaminated with benzene caused by leaks from underground storage tanks or nearby benzene-containing hazardous waste sites.

Effects of Benzene

Exposure to benzene, both in high and small amounts, can be detrimental to the human health.

Symptoms of benzene exposure

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the immediate signs of benzene exposure include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Euphoria
  • Unconsciousness
  • Drowsiness
  • Death in severe cases.
  • Direct contact with benzene can harm the tissue and irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs.

Note: Exhibiting any of these symptoms does not always mean that a person has been exposed to benzene. It is crucial to first determine the circumstances and environment and visit a doctor.

Disease from Benzene

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is an increased risk of Leukemia and other blood related problems in people who are exposed to benzene for prolonged periods.

Research shows that benzene can cause anaemia. Benzene often affects cells by impairing their ability to function. Therefore, once we become exposed to it, it may cause our bone marrow to stop producing enough red blood cells. When the body stops producing enough red blood cells, we are more likely to develop anaemia, a condition in which insufficient numbers of healthy red blood cells adequately oxygenate your body’s tissues.

Pregnant animals are at an increased risk to the negative effects posed by benzene. Breathing in benzene can cause low birth weights, delayed bone development, and bone marrow damage in animals.

The CDC also states that women who have inhaled large amounts of benzene over several months also reported having:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Shrinkage of their ovaries’ size.

Benzene from essential oils

However, benzene is also found in things like essential oils and is not all bad. According to research, diffused essential oils, including lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree, have been shown to emit terpenes, toluene, and benzene as well as other VOCs into the air.

These natural essential oils are recommended for certain aromatherapy treatments and are not used in excess. The benzenes produced by these natural essential oils is considered safe because it is produced in very low amounts.

How to avoid or limit Benzene exposure

There are many strategies to restrict your exposure to benzene, including avoiding cigarette smoke. When pumping gas do so cautiously, if possible, use gas stations with vapor recovery devices that trap the fumes, and avoid coming into touch with gasoline on your skin.

Since benzene is a naturally occurring substance found in both crude oil and gasoline, being close to engines while idling may expose you to benzene. Urban employees and professional drivers, such as taxi drivers, police officers, and street workers, are most likely to experience this.

Therefore, limiting the amount of time you spend near idle engines will also help reduce your exposure to benzene-containing exhaust gases. Also, avoid staying for long periods in areas where there are emissions from solvents, paints, and art supplies, particularly in enclosed places.

Unfortunately, aside from these specific situations that are likely to expose you to benzene, the entire Southwest is known for elevated benzene levels in the air, polluting the skies of Nevada, Utah and California in particular.

Improving your indoor air quality can help mitigate the problem in your immediate environment and lower your risk of benzene exposure in the home.

How to remove Benzene from the air

The best technique to eliminate benzene gas and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air is to pass it through an activated charcoal filter, which traps gases and odors. A gas phase medium is used in these filters to absorb a large range of gases.

Gas phase filter media are typically made from carbon, zeolite, alumina, or coconut-based materials. When these filters are used, they can effectively remove benzene from the air.

Small porous pellets of substances like sodium permanganates and activated carbon are frequently used as gas phase filtration medium and are placed within the filters prior to operation to get rid of gases like benzene.

Sodium permanganates increase the adsorption rate for a long period of time and maximize purification, so they are frequently utilized as filtration media. In general, pollutants such as sulfur oxides, hydrocarbons, formaldehyde, organic acids, hydrogen sulfide, nitric oxide, and VOCs are the focus of this filtration media.

Due to its unique characteristics, activated carbon is also able to eliminate smells, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other gaseous contaminants.

Activated carbon air filters use the adsorption method to remove pollutants and are more commonly found in air purifiers available commercially to the general public.

A bed of activated carbon (charcoal) is used in these types of filters to effectively remove benzene and other VOCs; they are frequently used to eliminate smells, but it’s important to note that they cannot eliminate tiny airborne particles like mold, dust, or pollen.

Unfortunately, HEPA filters are designed to remove particles (particulate contaminants) and are ineffective at removing gases or chemicals like benzene because they simply allow the substances to flow through their fibers.

Can an air purifier remove Benzene?

An air purifier that uses an activated carbon filter can remove benzene (and other VOCs). Air purifiers with sodium permanganate filtration media can also remove benzene, however these are rarely available to the general public.

An air purifier pulls in the contaminated air, and a fan pushes it through the activated carbon/charcoal filter, which traps the airborne contaminants like benzene through the adsorption process, releasing clean air back into the space. The activated charcoal filters removes benzene gas as it attaches to the surface and gets trapped by the filter.

Air purifiers that only include a prefilter and HEPA filter will not be able to remove benzene from your indoor air because these filters cannot remove odors and gases like benzene. Air purifiers which use the ionic or ultraviolet filtration method are also ineffective against benzene.

Top 8 Air Purifiers that can Remove Benzene

These air purifiers are the best for removing benzene.

1. Kilo Air Purifier

The Afloia Kilo can get rid of 99.9% of dangerous airborne pollutants like benzene, smoking, allergies, and smells.

Using an activated carbon filter, it eliminates gases such as benzene and other VOCs. It has a 3-in-1 HEPA filtration system that combines a prefilter, a HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter to produce a clean environment free of any contaminants for you and your family.

It can filter particles as fine as 0.1 microns and can cover areas up to 296 square feet.

2. Clorox Air Purifier

The Clorox Air Purifier utilizes 3 filters; the prefilter, an activated carbon filter, and a real HEPA filter, to remove contaminants from indoor air. This air purifier uses the activated carbon filter to remove contaminants such as benzene, other gases, and VOCs and remove aromas to keep the air smelling fresh.

While the outside pre-filter captures sizable dust particles and pet hair, the True HEPA filter captures 99.97% of allergens, including microplastics and particulates, and 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.

To clean rooms up to 1,500 square feet once an hour and 320 square feet up to five times an hour, the product line incorporates a 360° airflow that pulls air in from all sides.

3. AIRDOCTOR 4-in-1 Air Purifier

Using its activated carbon filter, the 4-in-1 air purifier AIRDOCTOR can also eliminate benzene from indoor air. This air purifier has a dual-action Carbon VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) filter that eliminates formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds as well as allergies and pet dander. It also has an UltraHEPA filter.

The brand’s UltraHEPA filter has undergone independent testing and has been approved to completely filter out airborne particles as small as 0.003 microns, which other standard HEPA filters cannot. Typically, they remove 99.97 percent of particles smaller than 0.3 microns.

Up to 638 square feet of air can be cleaned by AIRDOCTOR four times an hour or up to 1275 square feet two times an hour. It even has an auto mode that rapidly adapts filtration settings to the status of the air.

4. LEVOIT Air Purifier

The Levoit’s LV-H135 true HEPA Air Purifier uses a true HEPA filter, a preliminary filter, and an activated carbon filter in order to effectively remove 99.97 percent of small airborne particles, including allergens, benzene, dust, smoke, lead, bacteria, molds, and viruses, as well as VOCs, smoke, fumes, household odors, and other pollutants.

Its 360 m3/h CADR and automated fan speed adjustment make it the perfect device for huge spaces. In rooms up to 795 square feet, it can replace the air twice an hour and once an hour in rooms larger than 1590 square feet.

The air quality ring indicators show the air quality in real-time as the air purifier operates, so the user is informed of the present interior air quality.

5. Alen BreatheSmart Classic Air Purifier

The Alen BreatheSmart Classic is covers large areas up to 1100 sq. ft. and filters the air completely every 30 minutes. It effectively removes heavy pungent odors (like benzene), pet hair, dander, dust, fur, and germs. The Alen BreatheSmart Classic eliminates it all using its 3-layer filtration method.

It has a HEPA-Odorcell Air Filter that clears 99% of pollutants. The medical grade H13 HEPA filter and the activated carbon keep you safe from both particulate contaminants and VOCs.

6. TotalClean 5-in-1 Air Purifier

With a sleek, trendy design and 5-in-1 filtration, the TotalClean Air Purifier by HoMedics is has a HEPA-type filtration that removes more than 99% of airborne allergens up to 2 microns in size, including pollen and pet dander. In fact, it can effectively change the air every 12 minutes in a 246 sq. ft. room.

The UV-C light further enhances the filtration process. This HoMedics purifier uses UV light to inactivate germs, bacteria, fungi, molds, and viruses.

7. Vremi Portable Air Purifier

The Vremi Premium True HEPA Air Purifier has a 3-stage filtration technology that uses an ultra-fine pre-filter, True HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter to remove 99.97 percent of airborne particles, including ultrafine particles, gases, and VOCs like benzene.

The air purifier has two intelligent features that make it one of the top 5 air purifiers that remove benzene: a smart air quality monitor and a filter change indicator.

It features an integrated sensor that measures the quality of the air and displays it (in blue, green, orange, or red) and immediately modifies the fan speed (to low, medium, or high) to remove contaminants as required.

8. hOmeLabs air purifier

Benzene and other gases and VOCs are among the 99.97% of indoor pollutants that the hOmeLabs True HEPA Air Purifier eliminates. This purifier is a straightforward and effective solution for small to medium-sized rooms.

This air purifier uses three stages of filtration—a pre-filter, a True HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter—to effectively remove both large and dust-sized particles as well as other particulate contaminants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

This small air purifier eliminates dust, pollen, and foul aromas like cigarette smoke and pet odors from spaces up to 84 square feet in size.

Each of its filters can last an impressive 2100 hours on low to medium fan speed or about three months.

Theresa Orr

Theresa Orr holds a PhD in Earth Science and specializes in determining past climates from rocks using geochemistry. Her passion for clean water, soil and air drives her to provide easy to understand information for everyone to read.

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