Types of Harmful Indoor Air Pollutants in Your Home

Understanding indoor air quality starts by knowing the types of pollutants in our environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 13 indoor pollutants affect the air quality we breathe, which can cause health issues such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, or even death.

For better understanding, we divided these air pollutants into three. Here are the indoor pollutants that may be in your home.

Biological Pollutants

Biological contaminants are the number one triggers for asthma, infectious illnesses such as influenza, respiratory conditions, and other allergy-like symptoms. These pollutants include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, bacteria, viruses, cockroaches, and mold, mostly affected by humidity levels.

High humidity levels, stagnant water, leaky plumbing, and wet surfaces create conducive breeding grounds for bacteria, viruses, insects, mold, and mildew.

Other sources of biological pollutants include people who transmit bacteria and viruses, pet saliva, insect droppings from roaches, rodents, and contaminated central HVAC units.

Indoor Particulate Matter (IPM)

According to the EPA, IPM refers to any particle that’s smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter, as it can be inhaled, causing health issues in the lungs or heart. There are no clear impacts of indoor particulate matter on health, but the EPA still considers them indoor air pollutants.

Sources of IPM include wood which produces fine particles during burning. The microscopic particles from burning organic matter are small enough to enter the lungs and cause respiratory ailments.

Chemical Contaminants 

Chemical air pollutants are the second most common type of contaminants.


Asbestos naturally occurs in rock and soil and has great fiber strength and heat resistance. Because of these two qualities, manufacturers use asbestos in construction materials as a fire retardant or insulation. Examples of manufactured goods containing asbestos include ceiling and floor tiles, roofing shingles, gaskets, and coatings.

Radon (Rn)

Radon is also present in the soil but can contaminate your home water systems. Radon enters your home through your water outlets.

Lead (Pb)

Lead is present in rocks or soil, water, and inhalable products. Like radon, it can contaminate water systems and is presently used to manufacture paint, gasoline, and water pipes.

Formaldehyde and Pressed Wood Products

Formaldehyde is also a manufactured product used in building materials and as a combustion by-product. It can also be present in resin applied on wood products, pesticides, paint, glue, and in cosmetics as a preservative.


All forms of pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides, termiticides, and disinfectants, are major pollutants in the home. Available in balls, sticks, crystals, sprays, and liquids, they contain chemicals that pollute the environment.

Secondhand Smoke and Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Second-hand smoke is a leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and radon. The smoke comes from the burning of tobacco products like cigars and pipes.

Toxic Gases

There are three types of toxic gaseous pollutants.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are emitted by solids and liquid chemicals present in household products such as aerosol sprays, cosmetic products, cleaning products, and other organic compounds. Sources of VOCs in your home include:

  • Cleaners
  • Disinfectants
  • Air fresheners
  • Automotive fuels
  • Paints
  • Permanent markers
  • Wood solvents
  • Dry cleaning supplies
  • Adhesives such as glue

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless, and odorless gas that could lead to death depending on the length of exposure. Common sources of CO gas include:

  • Gasoline-powered equipment such as generators
  • Auto exhausts
  • Poorly maintained combustion heaters
  • Chimneys
  • Kerosene heaters
  • Wood and gas stoves

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Both nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide (NO) are combustion pollutants emitted by burning fuels from unvented combustion appliances. NO2 is also present in power plant emissions, auto exhausts, kerosene heaters, and environmental/tobacco smoke.

Bottom Line

Good indoor air quality is essential in every home. If you suspect your home has poor air quality, contact Steele Bros Heating, Inc. today. We offer dependable heating and cooling services throughout the Denver, CO, area.

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