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Animal dander, pollen, mold, dust mites, and fumes released by cooking, burning fuel, or cleaning products can all have an impact on your indoor air. The health risks from poor indoor air quality can often be much worse than outdoor air.

It is important to understand the sources of indoor air pollution.

pollen-iconAllergens are a major source of indoor air pollution in homes. Common indoor allergens include animal dander, pollen, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and more.

  • Dust mites and pet dander can be found on a lot of surfaces in your home: fabric furniture, carpets and rugs, window curtains and blinds, and bedding. When these surfaces are disturbed, it can send these allergens into the air.
  • Mold is a fungus that can be found in or near damp or humid areas of your home. These areas include sinks, showers, toilets and near water leaks. Mold can also be found in closets and basements and in the soil of overwatered houseplants.
  • Dead or alive, cockroaches in your home can cause issues too.

fumes-iconVolatile organic compounds (VOCs) also affect indoor air quality. Building materials are a big source of VOCs. These include paints, solvents, and varnishes. VOCs also come from electronic equipment, cleaning products, furniture, and many other household products.

What Are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

What do building materials, electronic devices, and cleaning products have in common? They all release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can affect indoor air quality.

VOCs are tiny molecules that contain carbon. At room temperature, they are primarily found in a gas form. Surprisingly, there can be two to five times more VOCs indoors than outdoors.1

VOCs can irritate our lungs, skin, eyes, and nose. As a result, VOCs can affect asthma and eczema. They can also irritate your eyes and cause other respiratory issues.

VOCs come from many different sources, such as:

  • Building materials (furniture, carpet, paints, varnish, glue)
  • Electronic equipment (photocopiers)
  • Cleaning products
  • Scented products (essential oils, air fresheners, candles, fragranced products)
  • Cooking equipment (fryers, grills)
  • Pesticides

To improve indoor air quality, be aware of the VOCs in your environment. Choose low VOC options when you can.

cleaner-iconCleaning products are an issue because many release harmful gases and VOCs. Scented products like air fresheners, essential oils, and self-care products also release VOCs.

fire-iconFuel-burning heat sources and smoke also have a negative impact on indoor air. These include wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters. Smoke can come from cooking, candles, fireplaces, or tobacco. Cooking foods can also release air pollution into your home.

smokestack-iconEven outdoor air pollution can find its way into your home. It can come in through open doors and windows and on your clothing. Pollen, wood burning smoke, dust, ozone, and emissions from cars and factories can find their way into your home. Even attached garages that store cars, motorcycles, or lawnmowers can pollute your indoor air. The carbon monoxide and exhaust enter your home through doorways, vents, and cracks.

Learn more about sources of indoor air pollution and how you can have a healthier indoor environment with our interactive Healthy Home Checklist.

1. Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. (2017, April 19). Retrieved February 9,2021, from

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