Indoor Air Quality: Do You Know What You’re Breathing at Home?

We spend a lot of time indoors, but do you know what you’re breathing? Here are the common indoor contaminates and what they can do to wreak havoc on your body.

Biological Pollutants

These can include molds, bacteria, viruses, animal dander, pollen, and different particles from dust mites. Breathing these things in can make you sick, and be responsible for multiple days of missed work.

The worst thing about these contaminates is that they’re mostly odorless, with the possible exception of pet danger. Even then, most people with pets become accustomed to the smell of it and don’t notice it.

Controlling these things often means washing bedding to kill dust mites, keeping animals away from susceptible people, and being more diligent about hygiene.

Companies, like Air Specialty, can also help. An HVAC company can install air cleaning and purification systems, HEPA filters that will clean the air and protect your family.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is a major indoor air pollutant. it contains 200 known poisons like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. It’s also known to contain at least 60 chemicals known to cause cancer.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 3,000 deaths attributable to secondhand smoke and 50,000 deaths from heart disease. Secondhand smoke is especially damaging for children and infants because it can induce asthma attacks.

The solution is simple: don’t smoke around children or other people. Take it outside.

Combustion Pollutants

Combustible pollutants come from sources like burning stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, heaters, and water heaters. The most dangerous of these pollutants are carbon monoxide since it is both odorless and colorless. Nitrogen dioxide is also very dangerous. Carbon monoxide interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the body. it can result in fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness and confusion. If the level is high enough, you can die.

NO2 irritates the mucous membranes in the eye, throat, and nose, and can cause shortness of breath and make you more susceptible to infections. You can control these pollutants by making sure that you have a third party inspect and install all appliances for you and to periodically check these appliances if you suspect supply lines may have been moved or damaged in any way.


Radon is a radioactive gas that’s odorless, colorless, and can enter the home through cracks in the foundation floor, walls, drains, and any other opening. Indoor radon exposure is thought to be responsible for at least 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.

The only way to detect it is to set up special devices in the home to measure it. Once confirmed, special procedures must be taken to reduce or eliminate it.


Asbestos used to be one of the most popular insulating materials until it was discovered that the tiny hook-like fibers could get caught in the lungs and cause long-term inflammation, leading to lung cancer (called “mesothelioma”).

Avoiding asbestos is a little tricky. But, the most common ways to deal with it are to seal it up with airtight coverings. Alternatively, you can pay experts to remove it for you.

Monica A. Phelps is a home improvement associate. She loves writing about better home living online. Look for her posts on many DIY and home improvement blogs.

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