Indoor Air Pollution Causes: 16 Surprising Things That Pollute The Air in Your House


Indoor Air Pollution Causes

How clean is the air you breathe?

Because you don’t see smog inside your home, you might think your air is pretty clean. You’d sure want it to be, since you spend 90% of your time indoors, either in your home or at work. But in fact, indoor air can be two-five times more polluted than outdoor air.

Why? One reason is that 25% of outdoor pollution can still get indoors.

But more importantly, many common items we use in our homes actually pollute our indoor air.

Because indoor air doesn’t circulate as much as the air outside, it can stagnate, and the pollutants inside can concentrate.

Fortunately, there’s a LOT you can do to reduce indoor air pollution. We’ve partnered with to bring you this two-part series on indoor air pollution causes and what you can do right now, and affordably, to clean up your air.


Indoor Air Pollution CausesThe chemicals in indoor air pollution can have any or all of the following effects:

Irritation – Did you ever get itchy eyes or a scratchy throat after using an air “freshener” or home “cleaning” product? Most common cleansers contain powerful chemicals that we shouldn’t be inhaling.

Headache, Fatigue, Nausea, Dizziness – Those same chemicals can give you an annoying headache, make you feel inexplicably tired or dizzy, and even give you an upset stomach.

Shortness of Breath – You might also feel shortness of breath, not something that’s pleasant at all.

Trouble Concentrating – If you’ve got a headache or feel sick to your stomach, or just have an uneasy feeling, it will be hard to concentrate on what you have to do.

Allergic Reactions, Sinus Congestion, Coughing & Sneezing – If you already suffer from allergies or are prone to sinus infections, these can get worse when you breathe in polluted air.


Here are 16 surprising sources of air pollution inside your home. Let’s start with the no-brainers first:

Indoor Air Pollution Causes1) Second-hand Smoke – If you are still smoking inside your home, at the very least, please go outside. The smoke you exhale along with the smoke that comes from a burning cigarette is full of all kinds of carcinogens that can get into the lungs and blood vessels of people who are in a room with smokers, even if they’re not smoking themselves.

2) Pesticides – Do you use pesticides when you spot ants or spiders or other bugs? Insecticides contain toxic chemicals designed to kill a pest upon contact. But if you inhales them, they can make you sick, too.

3) MoldMold crops up in lots of places in your home: damp showers and bathrooms, around leaky faucets, behind a wall that might have water damage, around the drain of a washing machine or dehumidifier. You’ll recognize it by the black stuff that looks like soot, or the grey or pale green spots you see on a wall, ceiling or floor.

Now, here are some other sources:

Indoor Air Pollution Causes4) Your Pet Cat and/or Dog – I’m really sorry to report that dander and hair from Fido or Felix can pollute the air you breathe – but they can.

5) Fireplaces, Gas Stoves, Cars & Trucks – Both fireplaces and gas stoves can give off carbon monoxide. This is a tricky pollutant because you can’t smell it at all – but it is deadly. Your car or truck emits carbon monoxide (as well as carbon dioxide) when they burn gasoline.

6) Furniture in Your Living Room, Kitchen, or Bedroom – Furniture that is made from plywood or pressed wood may contain formaldehyde and glues that “off gas” those chemicals for a long time.

7) Your Beauty Products – I know, they’re supposed to make you beautiful! But make-up, soaps, and shampoos are often made from artificial fragrances and ingredients that contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. Using one product one time wouldn’t be a problem. But because we use so many different products every day, the burden on your body can increase significantly.

8) Non-Stick Pots & Pans – If you use non-stick cookware, beware. The coating that gives non-stick pots and pans their non-stickiness may contain PFOA, a known carcinogen that goes airborne at high temperatures.

9) Household Cleaners – Most common household cleansers, especially sprays, contain artificial fragrances made from “volatile organic compounds” or VOCs. Depending on your sensitivity, they could cause most of the ill-effects described above. They do for me!

10) Home Computer Printer/Fax Machine – Depending on the equipment you use and your level of sensitivity, the chemicals in printer and fax machine ink could make you feel uncomfortable.

Indoor Air Pollution Causes11) Household Paints & Finishes – Common wall paint is a big source of VOCs. Before I switched to non-VOC paint, I would have to leave my home to have it painted, and then wait until it completely aired out before I could move back in.

12) Radon – Radon is an odorless gas that can be extremely toxic, causing lung cancer and even death. It comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil, and gets into your home through cracks in your foundation, spaces in the walls, and even water that gets contaminated when radon gets into tiny cracks in your water pipes.

13) Pillows, Cushions, Bedding – Dust makes your house look dirty. Imagine if you’re breathing the same stuff that’s settling on your coffee table. An ounce of dust can be home to 40,000 dust mites. If you’re allergic, you’ll be miserable.

14) Crumbling Paint & Paint Chips – The paint used in homes built before xx probably contains lead, a powerful neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous for kids and can cause learning disabilities

15) Asbestos Flooring, Shingles, Siding, & Insulation – Asbestos has been widely used in home construction because if resists fire. Unfortunately, asbestos also causes mesothelioma and other cancers.

16) Rotten Food – Food will rot – plain and simple. When it rots in your compost pile, that’s good. When it rots underneath your couch or at the bottom of your trash can, that’s bad. Not only might it stink to high heaven. It might draw ants or roaches or mice or rats, and then you’ll have an even bigger problem to content with than cleaning up the rotten food.


Yes, this is a pretty big list. But for every item on it, there’s a clear and simple solution, and with a couple of exceptions, the solutions cost very little money.

Stay tuned (or jump ahead to “Everything You Need to Know about Indoor Air Pollution,” a very useful infographic produced by, the sponsors of this post).

Indoor Air Pollution Causes



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