Indoor Air Pollutants
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7 Common Indoor Air Pollutants

7 Common Indoor Air Pollutants

When we think of polluted air, the first images that come to our minds are often big factories pumping out smelly clouds or old cars puffing out grey exhaust.  However, indoor air pollutants can be even more dangerous than outdoor air pollution!

The first step to keeping your home and family safe is learning more about the problem. This article will help by covering 7 common indoor air pollutants.

(1)  Pollutant: carbon monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas. It’s produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels.


Carbon monoxide stops your body from using the oxygen it needs to work normally. You may experience tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and a fast heart rate. If the concentration of carbon monoxide is high enough, you could die.

What you can do:

The Environmental Assistance and Protection Department of Forsyth County, North Carolina recommends having your heating systems checked by a professional yearly. Make sure that combustion appliances, such as heaters, have been installed correctly. Do not use combustion appliances without vents inside and never use a gas stove to heat your house.

(2)  Pollutant: radon

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is found everywhere in low levels. It is made naturally as the uranium in the Earth breaks down.


Being exposed to elevated levels of radon increases your risk of getting lung cancer.

What you can do:

You should screen your home for elevated radon levels with a kit or have it tested by a qualified professional.

Radon screening kits are easy to use and can be purchased online with your credit card. For example, the company Radon Environmental, Inc. offers a radon homeowner’s testing kit for $35 via You can pay using a Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card.

If your home does have elevated levels of radon, you must hire a qualified professional to remove it.

(3)  Pollutant: nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a common oxide of nitrogen. It is a toxic and corrosive gas.

Please note that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is different from nitrous oxide (N2O), an oxide of nitrogen that is medically useful when administered by trained professionals, such as dentists.


Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) irritates the throat, eyes, nose, and respiratory tract.

Exposure to very high doses of NO2, such as at the site of a building fire, can lead to pulmonary edema (potentially fatal liquid build-up in the lungs) or lung injury. Moderate exposure can lead to acute or chronic bronchitis.  Low-level exposure can impair lung function for people who are already at risk, such as asthmatics, people with chronic obstructive lung disease, and children.

What you can do:

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s important to ensure that combustion appliances, such as heaters, are installed correctly, used as directed, and kept in good condition. Make sure the air from these appliances can flow outdoors. Do not idle your car in the garage.

(4)  Pollutant: secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke, comes from incompletely burned tobacco products. According to the Environmental Assistance and Protection Department of Forsyth County, secondhand smoke contains over 4,700 chemical ingredients.


In the short term, exposure to secondhand smoke can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. In the long-long, it can cause many of the same health problems as smoking, like wheezing, pneumonia, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Asthma attacks may be triggered by secondhand smoke exposure.

What you can do:

Do not smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipe tobacco inside your home and do not allow others to do so.

(5)  Pollutant: lead particles

Lead is a natural, soft metal that is very toxic if consumed. Lead was widely used in house paint until it was banned in 1978. Lead particles and dust can become airborne, leading to dangerous indoor air pollution.


Exposure to lead can damage the brain, nervous system, kidneys, and red blood cells. If children are exposed, they may develop short attention spans, behavioral problems, lower IQ levels, and delayed growth.

What you can do:

If you live in a home painted before 1978, the Environmental Assistance and Protection Department of Forsyth County advises keeping play areas clean, mopping floors frequently, and using damp cloths to wipe window ledges and flat areas often. Keep kids away from chipped or peeled paint, clean their toys often, and make sure they wash their hands before eating.

(6)  Pollutant: asbestos

Asbestos is the name used for a group of minerals found naturally all over the world. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared asbestos unsafe in 1971, listing it as a hazardous air pollutant. Although asbestos is not hazardous when intact, disturbing asbestos fibers causes them to become airborne, where they could potentially enter the lungs.


In the long-term, exposure to asbestos can lead to various lung disorders, including lung cancer and asbestosis. Asbestosis is an inflammatory condition of the lungs that causes coughing, trouble breathing, and permanent lung damage. Those affected by asbestos should consult asbestos exposure lawyers.

What you can do:

If products in your home contain asbestos, but are in good condition, the Environmental Assistance and Protection Department of Forsyth County recommends just keeping them in good condition. Otherwise, have them removed by a trained professional.

(7)  Pollutant: mold

Molds are types of fungi that grow indoors and outdoors. Some types of mold are harmless, while others are dangerous.


Mold can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Symptoms can include nasal stuffiness, eye or throat irritation, swelling, coughing or wheezing, headaches, or skin irritation. Severe reactions can lead to fever and trouble breathing.

Mold can also trigger asthma attacks.

What you can do:

According to the Environmental Assistance and Protection Department of Forsyth County, the key to fighting mold is keeping moisture and humidity levels in check. Fix leaks and clean up spills ASAP. Make sure appliances that create moisture are vented. Keep the bathroom fan on or the window open when taking a shower.

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