Are you worried about the air you breathe? Don't think you're safe just because you're inside. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the air in homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air.
Indoor air pollution can cause big health problems. People who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods are often those most at risk to the effects of indoor air pollution. This includes children, older adults, and people with long-term (chronic) illnesses.
Most indoor air pollution comes from sources that release gases or particles into the air. Things such as building materials and air fresheners give off pollution constantly. Other sources such as tobacco smoke and wood-burning stoves also cause indoor pollution. Some indoor air pollutants have been around for years. But they often were weakened by outdoor air seeping into the home. Today's more energy-efficient homes don't let as much outdoor air get inside.
Indoor air hazards
Ozone generators are sold as air cleaners. They make ozone gas on purpose. But high concentrations of ozone react with organic material inside and outside the body. When ozone is breathed in, it can harm the lungs. This can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation. It can make chronic lung diseases such as asthma worse. It can also increase the risk for lung infections.
The EPA says that research does not support claims that ozone from these devices removes dust, pollen, and chemicals from the air. No federal agency has approved these devices as air cleaners. The official number found on ozone generator packaging is only the identification of the facility that made the product. It is not an approval number.
Other common sources of indoor pollution include:
These include mold, mildew, cockroaches, and dust mites.
Carbon monoxide (CO) and other pollutants are released from fuel-burning stoves, heaters, and other appliances. CO is an odorless, colorless gas. It blocks the movement of oxygen in the body. Depending on how much is breathed in, CO can have many effects. It can affect coordination, make heart conditions worse, and cause extreme tiredness, headache, confusion, nausea, and dizziness. Very high levels can cause death. Older adults, babies, pregnant women, and people with heart and lung diseases are even more sensitive to high CO levels.
This is a product of natural gas and kerosene combustion. Like CO, it is odorless and colorless. It irritates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat and causes shortness of breath in high concentrations. Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide can harm the lungs. It may lead to chronic bronchitis. Exposure to low levels may worsen symptoms in people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It may also increase other respiratory infections.
This gas is a product of burning kerosene in a space heater. It is very irritating to the eyes and upper respiratory tract.
Radon is a radioactive gas that seeps from the soil and rocks under your home. Radon can enter a home through cracks in the foundation, walls, drains, and other openings. Exposure to radon in the home is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Smoking is the first. Smokers and former smokers exposed to radon may have a much higher risk of death from lung cancer.
Cigarette smoke contains trace amounts of about 4,000 chemicals. This includes 200 known poisons such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide, and 43 carcinogens.
These are other common household air pollutants: