A number of pollutants, both natural and manmade, can build up in your home and cause health problems. You need to know what they are and how to eradicate them. Bad indoor air is caused mostly by two kinds of pollutants: allergens (also known as biological pollutants) and chemical irritants.
Allergens: There are a number of allergens in the air of the average household. Common irritants include mildew, mold, bacteria, viruses, house dust, pet dander and pollen that's tracked in from outside. Dust mites and other pests like cockroaches and rodents each leave their own mark on the air quality in your home. The waste produced by these types of critters often ends up airborne and, when inhaled, can prompt an allergic response.
Certain areas of your home produce ideal conditions for particular allergens to thrive. For example, damp areas in a basement or bathroom can produce mold. Carpet, bedding and other textiles that collect dust can also be a haven for dust mites and pet dander.
Chemical Irritants: These pollutants range from everyday household items like cleaning products to dangerous compounds and elements such as carbon monoxide and radon.
The paint on your walls, wood finishes and stains, aerosol sprays, cleaners and disinfectants, air fresheners and even dry-cleaned clothing can give off hazardous substances called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). In the short-term, VOCs can cause health problems like respiratory irritation, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Long-term exposure can cause damage to internal organs and the central nervous system and has even been linked to cancer.
Aside from VOCs, other hazardous chemicals are given off from household items and structures as well. Formaldehyde is emitted from pressed wood products (used for some types of furniture), tobacco smoke and certain textiles and glues. And while they haven't been used for many years, asbestos and lead are still found in older existing structures and paints.
Two potentially deadly substances that might also lurk in your home are carbon monoxide and radon. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be lethal in high concentrations. The same goes for radon, a natural radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. At high levels, radon can lead to cancer.