4 Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

| 9/30/2011 1:09:00 PM

Our homes are our havens, so it’s important to keep them as clean and healthy as possible. Unfortunately, for the majority of us, the air we breathe inside is often more polluted than the air outside—which is bad news considering that most of us spend about 90 percent of our time indoors. Indoor air pollutants can cause a number of unpleasant health problems—nausea, asthma, even lung cancer—and can come from a variety of sources. Want to breathe easier? Check out these four sources of indoor air pollution, evaluate your home, then make some simple changes. (And while you’re at it, try spending a little extra time outside. Fresh air does a body good!)


The Problem: More than 70 percent of all floors in the U.S. are covered in carpet. While carpet has the benefits of being warm and cozy underfoot, this traditional method of flooring pollutes indoor air in a variety of ways. When new, carpet can emit dozens of chemicals, including suspected carcinogen styrene, 4-PC (4-phenylcyclohexene), toulene, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Carpet’s effect on indoor air quality worsens with time. Carpet acts as a magnet for all sorts of airborne pollutants over time, attracting and trapping things such as dead skin cells, dust mites, mold, mildew and any toxins that we track into our homes off the street with our shoes.

The Solution: If your home already has carpet, you can take some easy steps to minimize its effect on your home’s indoor air quality. Remove shoes upon entering your home so that you don’t track in pollutants from outside. Vacuuming can stir up pockets of pollutants, so open the windows when you vacuum to help ventilate. HEPA vacuums and HEPA air cleaners would be a good investment if you’re unwilling to let your carpet go as they capture and filter particulates quite well.

Household Cleaners 

The Problem: Conventional household cleaners contain an arsenal of chemicals that can have serious negative effects on indoor air quality—and our health. According to various studies, chemicals in everyday cleaners can trigger or worsen asthma, increase blood pressure, cause headaches, irritate the respiratory system, induce nausea and more. When we use these cleaners in our home, the chemicals become airborne and can remain suspended in the air for days after use.