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Summary of Common Indoor Air Pollutants, their Health Effects, Sources and Some Methods Of Control

Summary of Common Indoor Air Pollutants, Health Effects, Sources & Some Methods Of Control


Sources In The Home

Health Effects

Methods Of Pollutant Control


Colorless gas with strong odor

Various construction materials, including particleboard, interior paneling and drapes

Eyes, nose and throat irritation

Substitute oriented strandboard (OSB) and exterior-grade plywood for particleboard. Seal particleboards with low-toxicity vapor proof sealers and paint or varnish in cabinets and closets on subflooring. Increase ventilation rates.


Odorless, colorless radioactive gas

Soil beneath and around the house foundation

Believed to be the cause of 5 to 10 percent of all lung cancer.

Seal floor drains, sumps and all cracks, joints and penetrations through basement walls and slab. Ventilate crawl space tightly and seal subfloor joints and penetrations. Depressurize the gravel bed beneath slab or isolated the basement from the rest of the house and pressurize it with air drawn from the floors above.

Carbon Monoxide

Colorless, odorless gas

Kerosene heaters, wood-burning appliances, unvented gas appliances, attached garages, blocked chimneys and malfunctioning furnaces

Nausea, headaches and blue fingernails. Severe poisoning can cause brain damage in fetuses and can be fatal

Provide outside combustion air feed to the firebox of all wood-burning appliances. Install tight-fitting doors on fireplaces and wood stoves. Vent gas ranges directly to the outside. Provide adequately sized, tempered make-up air for exhaust fans.

Use induced-draft or sealed-draft hot water heaters and furnaces.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Has odor when present in large quantities.

Kerosene heaters and unvented gas appliances

Lung damage and increased potential for lung disease after long exposure.

Respirable Suspended Particulates

Particles suspended in the air that can be inhaled

Tobacco smoke, wood smoke, unvented gas appliances, kerosene heaters, asbestos construction materials, dust

Eye, nose and throat irritation, lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, bronchitis, respiratory infections

Avoid smoking inside. Ensure wood-burning appliances and flues do not leak. Vent combustion appliances outside. Provide outside combustion air feed to the fireboxes of all wood-burning appliances. Install tight-fitting doors on fireplaces and wood stoves.

Increase ventilation rates. Use medium efficiency pleated fabric filters or HEPA filters in the furnace and change them regularly.


High humidity

Ground water entering through the foundation, cleaning, bathing, washing and respiration.

Causes growth of micro-organisms, increases release of formaldehyde.

Place a drainage pad of crushed stone beneath the foundation and provide drainage at the foundation's perimeter. Seal beneath the foundation with a polyethylene barrier. Provide adequate ventilation. Vent dryer directly to the outside.

Organic Solvents

Household cleaners and solvents in paints and caulking

Eyes, nose and throat irritation, can affect central nervous system

Use solvent-based materials in well-ventilatied areas. Substitute water-based paints and caulking for solvent based products.