Air quality is of concern to a lot of people, but far too many of us think that air pollution is only an issue outside. Unfortunately, just because you’re indoors doesn’t mean you’re safe from inhaling harmful pollutants. In fact, it’s possible for air in homes or other buildings to be more polluted than the air outdoors. Health problems can be caused by indoor air pollution, and the longer or more frequently you’re exposed to indoor air pollutants, the higher the chances of health risks. People with chronic illnesses, children, and elderly individuals are, particularly at risk.
Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
There are several dangerous sources of indoor air pollution, in fact, far more than you’re probably aware of. These include:
- Live sources such as mold, mildew, cockroaches, and dust mites.
- Carbon Monoxide – Burning fuel releases carbon monoxide into your home, which has no odor or color. If too much carbon monoxide is present, oxygen cannot move through the body efficiently, which may cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, extreme tiredness, worsened heart conditions, and even death.
- Nitrogen Dioxide – Natural gas and kerosene produce nitrogen dioxide when burned, which also has no odor or color. High concentrations of it cause eye irritation, nose irritation, and throat irritation, as well as shortness of breath. The lungs can be damaged by long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Eventually, it may lead to chronic bronchitis.
- Radon – Radon seeps from the ground and rocks into your home through cracks or small gaps in floors or walls. A radon-infested home can cause lung cancer.
- Secondhand smoke – Cigarettes are full of chemicals and carcinogens, including formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.
- Particulates such as dust and pollen, which can cause allergies.
- Formaldehyde – Particleboard, plywood panels, carpets, carpet dyes, carpet preservatives, and drapes are all made with this chemical. As a result of breathing formaldehyde fumes, one can suffer from coughing, rashes, headaches, dizziness, and irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat.
- Household Products – There are chemicals in numerous household products that can be extremely harmful to health. Examples include personal care products, pesticides, household cleaners, and solvents. Dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, cancer, and irritation to the eyes, skin, and lungs are all possible side effects. Cleaners can also produce toxic fumes.
- Remodeling or building materials – Many building materials such as paints and carpet include chemicals that can cause irritation or health problems.
- Lead and Asbestos – These materials aren’t used today, but if you live or spend time in an older building, you may be at risk of health problems caused by lead or asbestos. This can include worsened lung conditions, shortness of breath, coughing, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and brain damage.
- Pesticides – Pesticide bombs and sprays can expose people to high amounts of unhealthy chemicals. Symptoms of exposure can include headaches, dizziness, muscle weakness, and nausea.
- Even years after exposure to indoor air pollutants, health effects can appear. Symptoms and effects of exposure can range hugely, from long-term effects such as respiratory illnesses and cancer to more short-term irritation of the eyes and throat. Sadly, death is possible from prolonged exposure to high levels of some indoor air pollutants. In fact, the United States’ poor indoor air quality has been ranked one of the top cancer risks.
There is a wide range of symptoms caused by poor indoor air quality that can be misattributed to other conditions. If you experience any of the following symptoms, there is a risk that the indoor air you breathe regularly is polluted.
- Coughing and wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Respiratory congestion
- Watery or irritated eyes
- Dizziness and headaches