Updated: Apr 6
List Of Indoor Air Pollutants & Their MUST-KNOW Health Hazards
Let’s take a look at the common indoor air pollutants and the health issues that can arise from living in a home with polluted indoor air.
1. Indoor Air Hazards
Did you know: Some ozone generators are masked and sold as "air cleaners" while really creating harmful ozone gas.
And what most people are unaware of is that when ozone is inhaled, and when it is present in high masses, it will react with the body both inside and out, and can do damage to the lungs.
This means that inhaling ozone can cause damage such as shortness of breath, coughing, irritation in the throat, and chest pain.
If ignored, it can develop into a more serious issue such as asthma or something even more serious.
There is also a high risk that you experience an infection in your lungs.
The EPA claims that the ozone can remove dust and pollen from the air.
The truth is that no federal agency has ever approved these for home use.
When you look at the number on the generator, it does not act as a guarantee of the quality of the product but it is rather a registration number from the company it is produced.
2. Live Sources
Be mindful of live sources. Some of the most common live sources that are considered hazardous are mold and dust mites which impact people with asthma.
And let's not forget those pesky cockroaches.
3. Beware Of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Monoxide (CO) as well as other less known pollutants are created when one is using appliances that are fuel-burners such as heaters and stoves.
Carbon monoxide is an odourless and colourless gas, but just as deadly.
It can block the oxygen movement that usually happens in the human body.
Of course, all of this depends on the level of CO you have inhaled.
You can easily spot the symptoms since it can produce everything from loss of coordination, headache, dizziness, to extreme tiredness, confusion, nausea, and the highest levels can even result in death.
Some people are extra sensitive to CO, this includes pregnant women, older people, babies, and people who are dealing with some lung or heart conditions.
4. Beware Of Nitrogen Dioxide Too
Just like CO, nitrogen dioxide does not have any particular smell or colour.
It is derived from the combustion of kerosene and natural gas.
The effects it may have are shortness of breath and irritation in the nose, eyes, and throat.
In the longer term, it can do some serious damage to your lungs.
It can cause chronic bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
People who have asthma can feel that their state may become worse because of the nitrogen dioxide.
5. Sulfur Dioxide
What is incredibly irritating to the eyes and the throat is sulfur dioxide.
This is a gas that can be created by burning kerosene in a space heater.
This one is a radioactive gas that can seep from the rocks and the soil beneath your home.
The worst thing about it is that it can easily enter the home through the drains, walls, cracks in the foundation, and much more.
The second leading cause of lung cancer is radon exposure.
The first one is cigarettes.
And if you are a smoker that is exposed to this gas, then the combination is horrible and you would need to take care of it – the sooner the better.
7. Second-Hand Smoke
The smoke that comes from a cigarette can contain up to 4000 damaging particles. Out of them, 43 are carcinogenic.
That is an alarmingly high number.
Some other pollutants that are worthy of mentioning are:
- Particulates – such as pollen and dust.
- Formaldehyde – a preservative that can very easily be found in furniture, drapes, carpets, plywood paneling, and particleboard.
When this is inhaled, the results can be experiencing irritation to the throat, nose, and eyes, and it can lead to irritation, rashes, dizziness, coughing, and headaches.
- Household products – this includes some solvents, household cleaners, pesticides, personal care products, and some chemicals that you might be using for your hobbies.
When you are exposed to some of these toxic chemicals, you may experience an allergic reaction, nausea, dizziness, and irritated skin, throat, eyes, nose, and in the worst-case scenario, this could lead to cancer.
Moreover, it's important to know that a combination of certain chemicals can produce poisonous fumes.
In one case, that is the mix of ammonia and chlorine bleach – you should never mix them.
- Hazards During Remodeling – when we talk about these, what we usually think of is the process of installing new carpets and paint.
The products used to work with these materials can easily irritate the nose, throat, and eyes.
- Lead – this was a very common element in paint before the year 1978 and can damage the brain and nervous system and lower your IQ.
- Asbestos – whether it is caused by floor tiles, cement, heating equipment, spackling compounds, or insulation, having asbestos in your home can cause a pretty big issue in those cases where the material is disturbed, causing the asbestos to become airborne.
The fibers from the asbestos are incredibly small, flexible, and light, so they have no issue staying in the air for a longer period.
This is how they can be inhaled.
This can also happen to an old product that is cracking down due to age.
The result of inhaling this can be either lung cancer or lung tissue scarring, either one being a bad option.
- Pesticides – it's easy to be exposed to pesticides as they are found in foggers, sprays, or strips, which are filled with pesticides.
Using contaminated dust is also a way to get yourself exposed to pesticides.
Small children are at the top of the list of people who need to be removed from a contaminated area.
Exposing yourself to pesticides can cause symptoms like nausea, muscle weakness, headache, and dizziness, and some pesticides are even able to cause cancer.
How To Know When You Are In Trouble?
Here are some telltale signs that can help you detect of any air trouble:
- Stuffy or stale air
- No air movement whatsoever
- Chimneys and pipes that are damaged
- Central air conditioning that is either broken or very dirty
- Odours that are not normal and are weird
- Mildew and mold
- Noticing a reaction in your health when you are using a product from your household, or when you are moving, remodeling, buying new furniture, weatherizing, and so on.
- A very high level of humidity. The breeding grounds for bacteria, mold, insects, and mildew is any wet surface you may have at home, so make sure to get rid of all standing water spots and materials that are damaged by water.
- Feeling much better when you are outside of your home.
How Do You Know If My Indoor Air Is Safe?
What you need to keep in mind is not to purchase too many different products (pesticides and solvents) that can furthermore add to the air pollution.
When it comes to directions for storage, use, and disposal of products, make sure to follow them.
Also, ventilation is key, so remember to vent before and after using certain products. Finally, do not allow any smoking inside the home.
If you are able, please keep the moisture under control so you can avoid condensation and the growth of living pollutants.
Any air fresheners and personal care products can also release some gasses too, so make sure to use the ones that have no or very little aerosol.
Frequent use of fans and opening your windows often also helps a lot.
Finally, if you have any damaged tiles, make sure to consult a professional and have them removed or fixed.
A vaporizer or a cold mist humidifier can enhance the growth of any living pollutants.
Daily changing of the water and regular cleaning of the products will keep you at bay.
Regularly vacuum under your bed and use bedding and sheets that cover and block allergens.
Before taking any dry-cleaning in the home, make sure to air dry them outside first, since they can carry gases.
Finally, air conditioners should be maintained and cleaned regularly so you can avoid the spread of any allergens.
Pressed-wood furniture or paneling can release formaldehyde gas, make sure to avoid that.
Also, when you have new carpets, it can release gases and become a host to pollutants when they are wet.
Make sure to air out the carpets you have and not leave them wet.
Air out new draperies too, before putting them up in your home.
Check the fireplaces (if you have them) annually and make sure they are not releasing any gases.
Open the doors and windows frequently and use the vents and fans as much as you can, especially if you spend a lot of your time in your home.
When cleaning your kitchen, make sure to use non-toxic products that do not release any damaging vapors.
Use the exhaust fans to remove any moisture that has built up while cooking.
Clean your ranges and gas stoves regularly, since they can pose a higher risk of CO and combustion byproducts.
There are four components that you need to check regularly:
1. the engine (never run an engine in a garage);
2. fuels (make sure the containers are properly sealed and stored);
3. solvents, and paints (cleaning the brushes outdoors and resealing the containers correctly is the way to go);
4. fertilizers and pesticides (if they are used inside the home, air out, and check for any non-chemical alternatives).
Utility areas and laundry
In this final stage, there are several things you need to keep in mind:
1. radon (make regular radon tests);
2. asbestos (regular check and assessment of any damage, having it fixed by a professional);
3. clothes dryers (vent the dryers outside and thoroughly clean the filters);
4. water (avoid condensation and moisture in the home, if you notice that make sure to consult with a professional and make regular inspections too);