What Are the Most Common Indoor Air Pollutants?

March 20, 2021

Most people believe that contaminants only exist in the outdoors due to industrial wastes and locomotive pollution. However, the air inside your house may not be as clean as you may want to assume. It might contain a mixture of potential contaminants.

Prolonged exposure to polluted air can result in adverse health issues. Some of these pollutants are odorless and invisible, making it hard to detect them. The best way to prevent your house occupants from the effects of low indoor air quality is by knowing the sources of such contaminants so that you can eliminate them. Here are the most common pollutants to watch out for.

1. Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a very toxic, invisible, and odorless gas that can quickly kill you before noticing its presence. It limits your body’s ability to use up oxygen, resulting in fatigue, dizziness, headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, and eventually death. The risk is more prevalent in tightly enclosed indoor environments with poor ventilation.

The primary carbon monoxide sources at home include unvented gas or kerosene space heaters, burning candles, and gas stoves. Leaky chimneys or furnaces, gasoline-powered equipment, or automobile exhaust from your garage can cause carbon monoxide contamination in the house. You can eliminate this pollutant by adequately ventilating the home.

Check out the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention tips!

2. Radon

Radon is a naturally generated radioactive gas with no taste or smell and can be present anywhere. Radon can easily seep into the house through cracks and holes. Radon concentration will vary based on local geology, and people living near uranium mines are at a higher risk. Prolonged exposure can result in lung cancer.

The only way to prevent radon contamination is by scheduling regular screening with a professional to test your air quality. If you identify high radon levels, you can correct this by improving ventilation to allow air exchange throughout the house.

3. Volatile Organic Compounds

Certain solids or liquids in your house emit organic compounds that can adversely affect your health. Household products like paints, varnishes, air fresheners, wood preservatives, and cleaners release volatile chemicals into the air. It can lead to some short or long-term health effects. You might begin to experience headaches, nose or throat irritations. In extreme cases, volatile organic compounds can damage your kidney, liver, or central nervous system.

4. Biological Pollutants

Bacteria, viruses, pet dander, pollen, and mites may also affect the air quality in your house. Such contaminants mainly accumulate in areas with excessive moisture, like in an unvented bathroom or near the humidifier.

Dust mites, fungus spores, and cockroaches also contribute some contaminants to your indoor air. Such pollutants can trigger allergic reactions and can lead to breathing problems in severe cases. You can minimize biological contaminants by maintaining your house’s humidity level at around 30% to 50%.

5. Asbestos

It’s a group of minerals naturally found in soil and rocks, widely used in construction materials. Sources of asbestos in the house include ceilings, tiles, cement, roofing shingles, and other heat-resistant fabrics. Exposure to such contaminants can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Such materials release asbestos when cut during remodeling, and it would be best to have professionals remove them to avoid endangering your loved ones.

6. Secondhand Smoke

A mixture of smoke from burning tobacco products like cigars, pipes, or cigarettes can also lower your indoor air quality. Exposure to secondhand smoke, also known as passive smoking, can lead to lung cancer, asthma, or pneumonia. It significantly affects children and can trigger severe asthmatic symptoms. You can reduce exposure to secondhand smoke by implementing smoke-free regulations in your house.

7. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound present in household products and building materials that can cause skin, throat, and nose irritations. Insulation materials, paints, glues, wood products, and fuel-burning appliances are some sources of formaldehyde. It can also seep into your house from the outdoor if you reside near manufacturing facilities, power plants, or refineries.

8. Pesticides

Chemicals that people use to kill insects, rodents, pests, bacteria, and other organisms can also contaminate the air. Some household surfaces may collect pesticide particles. To reduce exposure, use the right quantity of pesticides based on the manufacturer’s instructions, mix them outside, and you can even consider natural pest control methods.

9. Indoor Particulate Matter

There are various particles suspended in the air, and once inhaled, they can cause adverse health effects. Some visible particulate matter includes dirt and dust. If you reside near a beach or construction site, you are at high risk of particulate matter pollution.

Other times it occurs as a result of reactions between pollutants from burning fuels. People with a preexisting health condition like asthma are at high risk of experiencing health issues from particulate matter exposure. Have a trained professional check and inspect your heating and cooling systems often to minimize particulate matter exposure.

10. Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide is a highly toxic gas derived from unvented combustion appliances, kerosene heaters, defective vented appliances, and tobacco smoke. Some symptoms of nitrogen dioxide exposure include sneezing, difficulty in breathing, and wheezing. Prolonged exposure can also lead to severe respiratory illnesses. It’s therefore essential that you install all combustion appliances appropriately and maintain them in good condition.

11. Lead

Lead is a soft metal previously used in house paint. When you improperly remove lead-based paint from surfaces by either scraping or using an open flame, it can contaminate your indoor air. Lead mainly affects young children since they can quickly absorb high amounts that can damage their brains and nervous system. Lead dust from outside can also contribute to a vast concentration of such particles in the house. Elevated lead levels can affect adult’s reproductive and cardiovascular systems.

12. Cookstoves

A poorly ventilated kitchen can cause an accumulation of pollutants into your house. Smoke and fumes emitted from cookstoves can substantially affect your health. People who use wood or charcoal stoves and heaters face increased contamination risk. Such pollutants irritate your lungs and lower your resistance to respiratory illnesses.

Open your windows during and after cooking, and you can even install a ventilation fan or range hood in your kitchen. Also, upgrade your old woodstove with cleaner alternatives to minimize health threats from wood smoke.

Although there are numerous sources of contaminants in your house, by making few adjustments and replacing some items, you can maintain good indoor air quality. This way, you will create a comfortable indoor environment free from allergens and other irritants. Keep plants outdoor to prevent pollen accumulation, open windows from time to time to allow air circulation, and avoid harsh cleaners. It would be best to work with professionals to maintain good indoor air quality all year round. Reach out to C & C Heating & Air Conditioning, and we will help save you from discomforts. We perform indoor air quality tests and offer the most effective solutions to preserve your home occupants’ health.

We also provide other services, including duct cleaning, repair, or replacements in addition to water heater, humidifier, UV light, and air filtration system installations. You can also depend on us for furnace and air conditioner installations, ductless mini-split services. We avail our services across Center Line, Romeo, Oak Park, Northville, Belleville, and the surrounding regions. To enjoy our top-notch services, reach out to our friendly support team today and schedule an appointment.

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