Last Updated on March 25, 2020 by Yuvika Iyer
Is indoor air pollution hiding in your home??
Find out the top 18 sources of indoor air pollution and then eliminate them from your home.
What is Indoor Air Pollution
It’s easy to understand when your home needs sweeping or dusting, but it’s harder to figure out when the indoor air you breathe needs cleaning.
Dirty indoor air can be harmful to you and your family members without any visible signs.
Surprisingly, indoor air can carry more pollutants than its outdoor counterpart.
Never allow your home air to pose any adverse effect on the health of your loved ones.
It can be deadlier if any of your family members are diagnosed with asthma, breathing issues, or chronic lung disease.
In this blog, we want to make you aware of all possible indoor air pollution sources and show you how to get yourself protected from these invisible dangers.
What are the Sources of Indoor Air Pollution?
“Asbestos,” a commonly used housing material formed by a group of fibrous minerals which are naturally occurring.
Multiple studies have pointed out that asbestos fibers can trigger chronic breathing problems and even respiratory cancer.
Old and worn-out asbestos products release microscopic – the tiniest form of fibers in the indoor air.
These particles are capable of suspending themselves for an extended period and get into your lungs when you inhale the polluted air.
Airborne fibers of asbestos are taste and odorless. Damaged and weakening products like fireproofing, acoustic materials, insulation, and floor tiles are the major sources of airborne asbestos in your home.
People dealing with asbestos daily such as asbestos abatement workers, maintenance and custodial workers, miners, and insulation workers) are at a higher risk of exposure to these deadly particles.
If correct safety measures such as face covers and masks are not used, workers may carry these unwanted guests (asbestos fibers) to their home and increase the health risk of their family members.
Bacteria And Viruses
We are all aware of airborne viruses and bacteria that cause recurring diseases such as influenza and the common cold.
The presence of these toxic organisms in indoor air can worsen the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
You may wonder how airborne bacteria or viruses can trigger so many health issues.
They play a pivotal role in inflicting and worsening any disease due to their uncanny ability to use the air as a medium and travel a long distance through it.
When anyone coughs or sneezes, droplets of mucus and tiny water filled with bacteria and viruses spread in the air or settles down on the flat surface, doorknobs, or window latches.
Inhaling or contacting these harmful organisms can trigger conditions such as colds, coughs, flu and cause deadly diseases like tuberculosis and other hard-to-treat infections.
Check out these 20 natural ways to purify your indoor air.
Building And Paint Products
When the indoor air gets filled with the aroma of fresh paints, we feel happy and elated without realizing that these paints induce toxic VOCs in the indoor air and put our health in grave danger.
Similarly, new construction materials may release dust and fumes that can trigger various health hazards.
Commonly used building materials such as furniture, plywood, and other artificially processed wood products contain toxic chemicals that release bad odors and gases with age and regular wear and tear.
These products emit different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including deadly formaldehyde into the indoor air.
If you use many of these products at the same time, the indoor air can get highly polluted due to the toxic mix of different chemical fumes.
Chemically induced solvents, artificial paints, polishes, adhesives, floor and surface cleaners, and carpet cleaning materials can release harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, and VOCs as they wear out.
Getting air purifying indoor plants into your home can be an easy and effective way to clean your indoor air.
Carbon Monoxide, scientifically known as CO, is a colorless, tasteless and odorless but a highly toxic gas.
The primary source of this gas is burnt fuel, such as oil, gasoline, kerosene, and other natural gases.
Regular exposure to CO depletes the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen and circulate it to our respiratory system.
Without proper precaution, it may reach or cross danger levels outdoors or indoors and trigger irreversible health issues. The familiar sources are:
- Various Gas-emitting appliances (ovens, furnaces, ranges, clothes dryers, water, and room heaters, etc.)
- Wood stoves and Fireplaces
- Oil and coal furnaces
- Heaters fueled by kerosene or oil or space heaters
- Camp stoves and charcoal grills
- Lawnmowers and other power tools run by gas
- Fumes emitted by automobile exhausts.
Once Co sneaks into your respiratory system, it slowly attaches to the hemoglobin and gradually attacks the red blood cells.
Haemoglobin is known as the oxygen carrier of your body.
When CO breaks into hemoglobin, it does the first damage by blocking the oxygen level mandatory for your body to survive.
Gradually its adverse effect is widely seen and felt through a vast range of health issues.
Even low levels of CO exposure may trigger Nausea, Headache, Weakness, Dizziness, Disorientation, and Confusion. These conditions may worsen without proper medical attention.
Carpets may elevate the aesthetic of your home, but its sticky surface traps all kinds of pollutants such as cockroach allergens, pet dander, dust mites, lead, microscopic particle pollutants, pesticides, mold spores, dust, and dirt.
Toxic gases and VOCs float in the indoor air and finally settle into your carpets by sticking to the tiny particles.
At the time of home renovation, strolling on the carpet, or even vacuuming, these toxic pollutants take refuge into the indoor air but doesn’t get eliminated.
Your small kids are the most vulnerable to the contaminants stuck in the carpet. They spend most of the time playing on the floor and tend to put their hands inside the mouths.
If the majority of your home surface area is carpet-covered, it can be challenging to remove allergens and other indoor air pollutants.
Chemically processed carpets, adhesives, and carpet pads can be potentially harmful to your health.
Some of these glues and chemicals are made with VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which release toxic pollutants and odor in the indoor environment.
Placement of new carpet has also been linked with persistent coughing and wheezing in babies and infants in their first few years of life.
Cleaning Supplies And Household Chemicals
Regular cleaning of the home, workplaces, and schools ensures good health for us and our kids.
The only challenge we face with the readily available cleaners is the high percentage of toxic chemicals.
You can find these chemicals everywhere, starting from polishes to soaps to pet grooming products.
Products that are advertised as “natural” or “green” may contain substances that can trigger health issues.
Many of the household cleaning products may contain allergens that cause throat or eye irritation, skin rashes, persistent headaches, respiratory ailments, and with regular exposure, these may even cause cancer.
Some of these products release toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and other volatile organic compounds in the indoor air.
We recommend you stay away from all these toxic substances, including bleach (commonly found in detergents and cleaners) and ammonia (a principal component of chemical fertilizers).
Room fresheners with artificially infused fragrances can grow indoor pollutants exponentially in your home.
Before using any cleaning product, thoroughly read the product labels, substances ratio, and carefully follow the instructions to ensure minimal exposure.
Continued usage of household cleaners with toxic chemicals and VOCs can be the major trigger for chronic respiratory ailments, persistent headaches, and different allergic reactions.
Cockroaches, the unsightly and unpleasant pests which eventually become your unwanted guests by thriving on the nook and crannies of your home.
Remember, they are not just an isolated problem to look at and solve.
Their ability to produce harmful allergens and substances, which can trigger an allergic reaction in your body, or worsen the condition of asthma patients, make them highly notorious.
The allergens germinated by cockroaches get stocked up in their feces and different body parts. These microscopic particles can easily float in the indoor air and suspend there for a long time and eventually increases the pollution level.
Cockroach allergens share the same behavioral pattern to dust mites and get attached to heavier and larger particles that settle on the surface.
These allergens like to remain grounded rather than being airborne. Vacuuming your carpets, rugs, or dusty corners of your home can stir these up, push back into your home air.
Eventually, when you or any family member fall into the breathing range of these allergens, you will end up inhaling these hidden monsters into your respiratory system.
The familiar places are bedding, pillows, and many other dust-trapping materials for these allergens to hide and settle.
Dust Mites And Dust
Dust mites are invisible to human eyes but equally deadly as roach allergens.
These insect-like, microscopic pests can spawn some of the most lethal yet common allergens responsible for asthma and allergy triggers in many of us.
Dust mites are little Frankensteins can be anywhere in your house, they can live and germinate in the mattresses, beddings, carpets, rugs, curtains, upholstered, and old furniture in your home.
They get nourished by feeding on our dead skin cells traced in dust and grow at lightning speed.
Dust mites don’t behave like parasites; they won’t sting, bite, or sneak inside your bodies. Instead, they can do much greater damage to your body and immune system.
The allergens generated by them come from their body fragments and fecal pellets.
Dust mites problems are widespread in the US, nearly every 4 out of 5 home here have alarming levels of dust mite allergens.
If you or your family members are diagnosed with asthma or allergy, the conditions may get aggravated with dust mite exposure.
If these allergens remain undetected for long, they can have significant health impacts on kids, older adults, pregnant women, and people prone to allergies and respiratory issues.
Floods And Water Damage
Water leakage and flood water can be problematic for people with chronic respiratory conditions and aggravate the situation in some cases.
If your area gets flooded or waterlogged after heavy rain without a proper drainage system, the standing water can act as the perfect breeding ground for deadly viruses, mold, and bacteria.
These organisms are capable of suspending in the air for long and eventually gets inhaled and expose people to the risk of respiratory diseases.
Even when the floodwater is relatively clean, such as the storage of rainwater, still these microorganisms can thrive there and may trigger allergies to sensitive individuals with low immunity.
Floodwaters carry several toxins and sewage, mainly in the urban and congested areas.
These may include gasoline, diesel or oil, dead animals, stinky garbage, toxic chemicals that get trapped in the flooding.
Formaldehyde is a highly toxic, flammable, colorless gas with a different odor that can be easily detected at deficient concentrations.
Regular exposure of this VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) can have many detrimental side effects, including cancer.
Formaldehyde is naturally produced chemical, sometimes small amount is generated by our bodies as well.
The high percentage of toxic fume emitted by formaldehyde is deadly for our health.
Formaldehyde has been scientifically linked as the primary cause of developing a rare type of cancer of the nasopharynx, the upper part of our throat placed behind the nose.
Our eyes, nose, and throat get irritated with the exposure or contact of formaldehyde.
These symptoms are visible at even low levels of this toxic VOC, especially in odor or smell-sensitive people.
Apart from long term damage, the short term impacts of formaldehyde can range from nausea, headache, breathing difficulty, or runny nose.
Prolonged exposure may trigger sudden asthma attacks, persistent sneezing and cough, wheezing sound, and other respiratory issues.
Each one of us is constantly exposed to lead through gasoline and different other household products. It is commonly used in processing daily household stuff and car fuels.
Like many other pollutants, lead is also a naturally produced substance, but unlike its counterparts, this toxic element sticks to air for a long time, causing a lot of health issues.
The worst part is that the safe level of lead exposure could not be determined by science until now.
Lead is commonly found in the indoor air of homes constructed before 1978 generated by old wall paints.
If you are living in one of those ancestral houses, make sure to remove old paints and get your indoor walls freshly painted with organic (chemical-free) paint materials.
You can easily inhale chips, dust, and other tiny airborne particles released from lead-based paints. If you dry scrape, remodel and demolish your home, which may also re-suspend microscopic paint particles.
Puff of dust and contaminated soil moved indoors from the outside environment are also one of the significant contributors to indoor lead-based pollution.
Lead levels are much higher near its potential sources like mines, smelters, old agricultural fields, runways and roadways with heavy traffic.
If you happen to work around the lead and have constant exposure to this toxic substance, try to change your clothing and store your equipment in the office before coming home.
It ensures the safety of your family members’ health.
Nitrogen dioxide, scientifically known as NO2, is a close relative to one of the harmful group of gases called NOx or Nitrogen Oxides.
It’s an equally deadly and a gaseous air pollutant composed of oxygen and nitrogen.
When fossil fuels like oil, coal, diesel, or gas are burnt in high temperatures, the toxic gas that is formed is known as NO2.
The accumulation of NOX and NO2 in the outside air gives rise to particle pollution and generates toxic chemical reactions, making ozone in the process.
Ozone is one of the six deadliest and widely known air pollutants, the limit of which in the outdoor air has been defined by the national air quality standards.
The initiative was taken to ensure checks and control on ozone-triggered air pollution.
NO2 is commonly found in indoor air, emitted when cooking gas or fireplace wood is burnt in your home.
NO2 causes a wide range of adverse effects on our lungs, such as aggravated wheezing and cough, blockage of airways.
This occurs due to an increased level of inflammation, severe asthma attacks, and frequent visits to medical specialists, hospital emergencies, and admissions due to acute health conditions.
Mold And Dampness
Mold is present everywhere in your home.
Starting from dark corners to A/C ducts to window sills to your drain pipe, you will find mold spores in all indoor spaces.
You have to identify places with excess moisture in your house as molds thrive on humid conditions.
If you want to know where to start your search, find the places with high humidity, excess moisture or dampness, and possible sources of water leakage.
Mold feeds on dampness and spread inside your house at a steady rate. Excess moisture is also conducive to the fast growth of cockroaches, bacteria, viruses, and dust mites, which can harm your health.
We strongly recommend you to get a deep cleaning done of your home at regular intervals to prevent the growth of mildew, mold and other toxic organisms.
Like other indoor air pollutants, mold can cause and worsen asthma symptoms and allergic reactions to people who are susceptible to it.
People having asthma can get sudden asthma attacks with higher mold exposure and develop severe issues in their lower and upper respiratory tracts.
Even if you are not prone to allergy attacks, you may still develop eye irritation, skin rashes, nose blockage, throat congestion, and chronic lung diseases when encountered with airborne mold spores.
Pet dander is made of microscopic skin flecks regularly shed by dogs, cats, birds, rodents, and other furry and feathery animals.
Flakes from pet dander can remain suspended in the indoor air for a long time, and when inhaled, it can trigger allergic symptoms or aggravate suppressed respiratory ailments.
Proteins commonly traced in feces, urine, and saliva of dogs, cats, and other pets may trigger severe allergic reactions to people with different health issues and low immunity.
Dried saliva becomes airborne after falling off from your pet’s fur at the time, flaking their skin, and eventually inhaled by you and your loved ones.
Dust generated from dried animal feces can get suspended in the indoor air following a similar process.
As per multiple studies, it has been found that dogs are kept as pets in 32% of the US household, and cats come a close second with 27%.
However, these studies stressed the fact that people are more allergic to cats than dogs. Cat owners, you may now want to keep your lovely friend and your home spanking clean and germ-free.
Radon is widespread across the United States and one of the naturally generated gas with a huge impact on your IAQ (indoor air quality) and health.
It’s invisible and can’t be smelled, but can easily accumulate to dangerous levels inside schools, homes, and offices.
Regular and high exposure to this toxic gas may trigger lung cancer, as well.
Radon exposure is the second most leading cause of lung cancer and other chronic respiratory diseases in the US, followed by smoking.
The only way to trace radon buildup inside your home is to get indoor air tested. Use different types of DIY test kits that are easy to use and won’t pinch your pocket.
Residential Wood Burning
Burning wood is common in the US residences, especially in the winter, and it has been widely associated with several health issues.
These toxic emissions may happen in outdoors and indoors round the clock through many devices.
People with cardiac problems, lung disease, and diabetes may face increased health risks with exposure to the fume.
Older adults, children, and pregnant ladies are the most vulnerable lot.
Wood smoke emissions may cause wheezing, persistent coughs, severe asthma attacks, cardiac arrest, lung cancer, and other acute respiratory issues and premature death of young adults.
The majority of these pollutants worsen outdoor and indoor air quality.
Secondhand or passive smoke causes over 41,000 deaths in the United States per year and is considered to be a severe health hazard.
It may cause significant health issues or aggravate existing conditions in adults and children, which includes infection in the respiratory tract, asthma, and irreversible lung cancer.
Until now, no risk-free level has been determined for passive smoke, and even occasional exposure can significantly increase the risk of heart and cerebral attacks.
Secondhand smoke comprises plenty of carcinogenic and highly toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride, benzene, arsenic ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and formaldehyde. All of them can be lethal for your health.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds, commonly known as VOCs, are released in the air from different processes and products involving toxic chemicals.
Some of these chemicals are known to have lethal health effects, including cancer. Additionally, they get blended with other poisonous gases and form deadlier air pollutants.
VOCs can be traced in outdoor and indoor air. Some of the sources release VOCs in the air at the time, storing or transporting them.
Some of the commonly found VOCs are Formaldehyde, toluene, and benzene. Let’s look at some of the common sources of indoor air pollution:
Indoor Sources of VOCs
· Paint strippers and paint
· Varnishes and finishes
· Sealants and caulks
· Carpet, rugs, other flooring and pressed wood furniture and fixture
· Chemically processed disinfectants and floor cleaners
· Pesticides with harmful chemicals
· Air fresheners with artificial fragrance
· Deodorants and cosmetics
· Gasoline, petrol, kerosene and other fossil fuels
· Secondhand smoke
· Dry-cleaned clothes
· Permanent markers, glues and other color-based products used in arts and crafts
· Wood burning stoves
· Photocopiers and office printers
Is Your Indoor Air Unhealthy?
Knowing is the first step in combating these indoor air pollutants.
Have you noticed any of these in your home?
Share your suggestions in the comments section below.