What does activated charcoal adsorb?

The table below shows the primary pollutants* and the typical pollutants that can be found in homes and cars. Notwithstanding the temperature, humidity and air movement, this table shows the typical adsorption capacity of activated carbon (click here for an explanation of adsorb vs absorb).

Carbon capacity index

All substances are rated on a scale from 1 – 4.

  1. Poor adsorption capacity. Substances that are not adsorbed by activated carbon fall into this category

  2. Moderate adsorption capacity. Substances are not highly absorbed but might be adsorbed sufficiently to give acceptable results under particular operating conditions. These require individual checking

  3. Satisfactory adsorption capacity. Substances are adsorbed well, but not as efficiently as substances rated 4. One pound of activated carbon adsorbs about 10 to 25% of its weight – average about 1/6 (16.7%).

  4. High adsorption capacity. Substances are adsorbed very efficiently. One pound of activated carbon adsorbs about 20% to 50% of its own weight – average about 1/3 (33-1/3%). This category includes most of the odour causing substances.

* Volatile organic compounds (VOC) such as benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene and xylenes are said to be the priority pollutants with respect to their health effects. This is most noticeable in new builds, recently renovated/redecorated buildings and in cars less than 3 years old where the VOCs concentration levels are often significantly high.


Learn more about Airbon and Activated Charcoal

  1. The Airbon Identity

  2. Vehicle Indoor Air Quality

  3. Benzene test report on a used Airbon box

  4. Carbon capacity index

  5. Everything you have ever wanted to know about activated charcoal

  6. The myths about activated charcoal

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