Most of us spend much of our time indoors.
Unfortunately, indoor air is far more polluted than outdoor air. According to the EPA, indoor air contains two to five times —and on occasion, as much as 100 times – more contaminants than outdoor air.
The air that we breathe in our homes and offices contains pollutants (such as chemicals, gases, and living organisms like mold and pests) which can put us at risk for health problems.
Common Household Pollutants
Radon, a radioactive gas that is formed in the soil. Radon can enter buildings through cracks and openings in floors and walls that are in contact with the ground. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in general.
Secondhand smoke, a result of burning tobacco products. Secondhand smoke can cause cancer and serious respiratory illnesses. Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke; it can cause or worsen asthma symptoms and is linked to increased risk of ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Combustion Pollutants, gases or particles that come from burning materials. The major source of combustion pollutants in homes is improperly vented or unvented fuel-burning appliances (such as space heaters, wood stoves, gas stoves, water heaters, dryers, and fireplaces). The type and amount of pollutants produced depend on the type of appliance, how well it’s installed, maintained, and vented, and the kind of fuel it uses.
Common combustion pollutants include:
Carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. Carbon monoxide can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and even death.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a colorless, odorless gas that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, and an increased risk of respiratory infection.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals found in paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, varnishes and waxes, pesticides; building materials and furnishings, office equipment, moth repellents, air fresheners, and dry-cleaned clothing. VOCs evaporate into the air when these products are used and, sometimes, when they are stored. VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat and/or cause headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Some of them can also cause cancer.
Molds, living things that produce spores. Molds produce spores that float in the air, land on damp surfaces, and grow. Inhaling or touching molds can cause sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rashes. Molds can also trigger asthma attacks.