How to Recognize Indoor Air Pollution

Scientists have warned that air pollution can impact our health by causing problems like respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, but there’s been more attention lately on indoor air pollution.

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is a mixture of natural as well as man-made substances found in the air and is typically separated into two separate categories: indoor air pollution and outdoor air pollution.

Indoor Air Pollution refers to exposures to particulates, carbon oxides, and other pollutants carried by indoor air or dust.

Examples of air pollution include:

  • Gases (carbon monoxide, radon, etc.)
  • Household products and chemicals
  • Building materials (asbestos, lead, etc.)
  • Outdoor indoor allergens (cockroach and mouse dropping, etc.)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Mold and pollen

Hazardous air pollutants can be emitted from common household objects, such as neutralizeants and paint, and even in offices from copiers and ceiling paneling.

Indoor air pollution is something that every household deals with and can have potentially fatal risks.

Risks of Air Pollution

Air pollution risks

Immediate Effects

During extremely hot or cold weather, people tend to stay indoors more, and that can lead to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). SBS creates health effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.

Symptoms include headaches, sore throats, dizziness, and lethargy; most people report immediately feeling better upon leaving the building. Building Related Illness (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

The recovery time for this type of exposure may be prolonged in comparison to SBS which has a much shorter recovery time, though the symptoms are similar.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term effects of prolonged exposure to indoor air pollution may last a few days or even show up years later.

Among them are respiratory diseases (including asthma and changes in lung function), sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth), cancer, and even death.

The World Health Organization reports that each year, more than 4.3 million people die from household air pollution-caused health complications.

Causes of Indoor Air Pollution

causes of indoor air pollution

  • Poor ventilation
  • Chemicals
    • Cleaning agents
    • Aerosols
    • Paint thinner
  • Bacteria
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Building materials
    • Carpet
    • Upholstery
    • Adhesives
    • Manufactured wood products
    • Paint
  • Smoke
    • Tobacco
      • Primary and secondhand
    • Environmental
  • Gases
    • Carbon Monoxide
    • Radon
    • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Kerosene and gas space heaters
  • Wood burning stoves, fireplaces, and gas stoves

How Do I Reduce My Indoor Air Pollution?

While indoor air pollution cannot be completely eradicated you can take some proactive and preventive steps to better protect your family and your home. Indoor air pollution can be reduced by making sure that a building is well-ventilated and cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of agents like dust and mold.

  1. Regular maintenance of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units (HVAC) will help control buildup.
  2. Periodically replace air filters to help with ventilation and air quality.
  3. Install Carbon Monoxide detectors throughout your house because, as an odorless and odorless gas, it often catches people unaware and can cause major damage, including death, before it is even detected.
  4. Buy a Radon Test Kit to regularly check for the toxic gas.
  5. Store possible contaminants; such as paints, adhesives, solvents, and pesticides; outdoors and in a well-ventilated area.
  6. When using these pollutants make sure that the room you are in is well ventilated, opening a window usually does the trick.
  7. If your house incurs any kind of water damage, whether it’s from a storm or a busted pipe, promptly repair the damage as, if left untreated, may lead to the formation of mold.
  8. Do not leave any standing water around, such as water fountains or in potted plants, as this breeds bacteria.
  9. Refrain from using ozone cleaners and generators as scientists have said that the increase in ozone levels are concerning and have adverse health effects.


Your home should be your safe haven, not a place that may become a source of longtime stress. Indoor air pollution is something that every household encounters and not something to be afraid of.  

If properly managed it will be a non-issue for you and something that you seldom think about.

By recognizing what indoor air pollution is and its risks we hope you are better equipped to take the preventative measures needed in order to cut down on your risk of adverse health effects.

Don’t let pollution catch you unaware; by making just a few changes to your house, storage, and cleaning routine may save you lots of pain and suffering in the long run.


April 26, 2019 3

A. Giudice

A Sleep Professional with over 20 years of industry experience, a healthy respect for research and a slightly sarcastic writing style.