Indoor air pollution is estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, to be two to five times greater than that of outdoor air. This is of extreme importance because infants, and young children may be at a greater risk of experiencing health problems when these pollutants are present.

The single most effective way to keep the air in your home healthy is to keep things out of your home that cause indoor air pollution, and the second is to ventilate to draw dangerous pollutants out of the house. The quickest, most convenient way to control indoor air pollutants in your home is to open the windows and ventilate your home every day.

Indoor Air Pollution from Secondhand Smoke

The Environmental Protection Agency states that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Never let anyone smoke inside your home. Ask smokers to take it outside to protect your health and that of your family.

Cigarette smoke contributes more than 4,000 chemicals to indoor air pollution and at least 60 cancer-causing compounds. When you smoke during pregnancy, two of these chemicals, nicotine and carbon monoxide working together have devastating lifelong effects on your baby's brain. Children of pregnant smokers are especially likely to have learning disorders, behavioral problems, and comparatively below average mental abilities.

Growing infants and children receiving high doses of secondhand smoke, such as those with smoking mothers, run the greatest risk of damaging health effects from indoor air pollution. Most importantly, it is reported that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the prevalence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and fluid in the middle ear that results in lack of sensory motor integration and auditory processing problems. And not only does it cause asthma attacks, it has the potential of being a risk factor in children who have not previously displayed symptoms.

Common Biological Contaminants in Indoor Air

Molds are usually not a problem indoors unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Some toxic molds are believed to be linked to memory loss and to severe lung problems in infants and the elderly.

Other biological contaminants include mildew, dust mites, animal dander and cockroaches, all of which require moisture and thrive in high humidity levels. Inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners are other causes. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem.

If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, most likely, the mold problem will come back. Maintaining the relative humidity between 30% - 60% will help control mold, dust mites, and cockroaches.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as Indoor Air Pollutants

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) including formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene are found in everything from paints and coatings to underarm deodorant and cleaning fluids.

Widely used as ingredients in household products, they are emitted as toxic gases from certain solids and liquids that can be released while you are using them, and to some degree, when they are stored. These toxins may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

Formaldehyde is used in plywood, particle board and glues: it is found in most cabinets, carpets and walls. Formaldehyde is regularly brought into homes in plastic grocery bags. It is even in some tissues and paper towels. Formaldehyde is also released in cigarette smoke and from fuel burning appliances.

Benzene is a petrochemical used in detergents, latex paints, oils, foams, dyes and rubber. It is common in building materials, exhaust fumes and especially in cigarette smoke. Benzene is even found in some pharmaceuticals and it is known to induce leukemia.

Trichloroethylene is found in paints, lacquers, carpet shampoos, spot removers and adhesives. It is also used in dry cleaning. Since trichloroethylene has contaminated some of the water supply, it can also enter the air of your home from shower vapors. Trichloroethylene is a central nervous system depressant.

Carbon monoxide is found in homes with gas stoves, and it is regularly found in high concentration with worn or poorly maintained furnaces. Carbon monoxide is in fuel emissions and may enter homes from attached garages. In high levels carbon monoxide can cause sudden death.

Health Effects of Indoor Air Pollutants

The ability of organic chemicals to affect our health varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other air quality problems the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed.

Allergies are one of the most common reactions to indoor air pollutants. Allergic reactions can present mild, flu-like symptoms or be life threatening.

Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include irritation to the eyes, nose and throat discomfort, headache, dizziness, visual disorders, memory impairment, allergic skin reaction, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, nosebleed, fatigue, and dizziness.

More serious effects are memory impairment, and damage to the central nervous system. Others effects include asthma, cancer, and suppression of the immune system which makes your child more susceptible to infections.

Any and all of these reactions lessen the ability to attend, concentrate, and benefit from classroom instruction. In pregnant women and infants these and other household pollutants can actually damage the developing brain and central nervous system of the child.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution in the Home

Living Areas

  • Paneling, pressed-wood furniture and cabinetry release formaldehyde gas.
  • Biological pollutants can grow on water-damaged carpet.New carpet can release organic gases.
  • Moisture encourages allergens such as mold, mildew, dust mites and cockroaches.
  • Fireplace can be a source of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
  • Air conditioners can be a source of biological allergens.
  • Gas and kerosene space heaters can release carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
  • New Draperies may be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish and emit odors for a short time.
  • Many animals leave allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers or skin in the air.


  • Unvented gas stove and range.
  • Toxic cleaning products mentioned above are commonly stored in the kitchen under the sink. Chemical wipes used to clean dirt and grease are especially toxic and remain toxic, and even when stored they continue to contribute to indoor air pollution.


  • Personal care products. Organic gases are released from chemicals in some products such as deodorant and hair sprays, shampoos, toners, nail polish and perfumes and other fragrances.
  • Air Fresheners. These products can release organic gases.


  • Humidifier/vaporizer. Cold mist vaporizers can encourage biological allergens, including mold, mildew and cockroaches that can trigger asthma and encourage viruses and bacteria.
  • Moth repellents. These often contain harmful pesticides.
  • Dry-cleaned clothes and other goods.

Utility Room

  • Gas or oil furnace/boiler and gas water heater. Air quality problems include back drafting of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
  • Unvented clothes dryer. Gas dryers produce carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts and can be a fire hazard.
  • Asbestos pipe wrap and furnace insulation. These can release asbestos fibers into the air Basement
  • Ground Moisture encourages biological allergens like mold and mildew
  • Radon, an invisible, order less, radioactive gas poses a lung cancer risk.
  • Hobby Products. Chemicals in products such as solvents, paint, glue and epoxy release organic gases. Garage
  • Car and small engine exhaust. These are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.
  • Paint, solvents and cleaning supplies. These products may release harmful vapors.
  • Pesticides and fertilizers. Yard and Garden chemicals may be toxic

.Sources of Help with Indoor Air Pollution

Steps to Reduce Exposure to these air quality problems are available by clicking this link.

Assistance with the effects of indoor air pollution upon your child’s school performance is available in our LD reference book.

Professional help with indoor air pollution is available from your local government through your local health department.

If all else fails, as a effective temporary method of reducing indoor air pollution is to open the windows and ventilate your home every day.

Leave Indoor Air Pollution go to Plants Absorb Toxins

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