The 8 Common Indoor Air Contaminants

There are so many indoor air contaminants that, when not addressed or eliminated, could lead to health issues for you and your family members. This is why cleaning the house regularly, and air ventilation is very vital to avoid suffocation or breathing difficulties.

The common indoor air contaminants include mold, dust, pet dander, odors, smoke, VOCs, and dirt. Other indoor contaminants include pests, germs, Carbon monoxide, and soot.

This post will take you through why it is important to clean your home to ensure it is free from various indoor air contaminants and, most importantly, expound on the most common indoor air contaminants.

Why ventilation and house cleaning is vital.

Research shows that ventilation may contribute to a decrease in the quantity or concentration of indoor pollutants and virus particles in the air. Some of the activities that help in house ventilation include opening all windows and doors to allow air circulation.

Cleaning the house on the other hand helps remove contaminants such as dust, mold, pet dander, and soot. This helps to prevent common sicknesses such as coughs, asthma, and allergic reactions that may be induced by indoor air contaminants.

Common indoor air contaminants

There will always be one or more of the following contaminants around your indoor air. This can be transferred into the indoor air from outside on hair, clothes, or shoes or rather move into the house through the air. Either way, if you have pets, they can carry dirt and dust from outside into their furs. Children on the other hand can carry dirt from outside on their toys or hair.

Other indoor air contaminants such as carbon monoxide gas, bacteria, soot, and mold come about from the day to day household activities.

1. Mold.

indoor air contaminants

One of the most common household contaminants is mold. Mold typically grows and flourishes wherever that is moist or humid. Therefore, if there is a water leak, flooding, or an accident during water handling, you should be able to handle it as failure to do so can lead to mold infestation.

Because mold grows and reproduces by producing spores in highly dark and moist environments, leaving any area of your home wet—be it on a carpet, window, wall surface, or under the sink—will encourage the growth of further mold colonies. Mold spores can move through the air with ease and speed.

The most recommended method for completely eliminating mold infestation is to physically remove the mold from the area where it is developing.

If you are unfamiliar with mold, it typically comes in a variety of colors (black, yellow, orange, white, and green), and it has a musty odor.

Different types of mold.

  • Mucormycetes
  • Stachybotrys
  • Acremonium.
  • Chaetomium.
  • Cladosporium.
  • Alternaria.
  • Fusarium.
  • Penicillium
  • Trichoderma
  • Aureobasidium

Effects of mold exposure in the indoor air

CDC states that living in a home with mold is bad for your health, and people who have asthma are more likely to experience health problems if the mold problem is not resolved.

If these molds release spores into the air, when breathed in or touched, they can cause allergic reactions.

Note: Exposure to mold can be damaging to your health even if you are not sensitive or allergic to it.

Effects of mold exposure.

  • Sneezing
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Runny nose
  • Chest tightness.
  • Red eyes
  • Serious asthmatic attacks
  • Skin rash
  • Respiratory problems

2. Dust and dust mites.

indoor air contaminants

99 percent of households contain dust which is among the biological household air contaminants. Dust and dust mites are other common indoor air contaminants found in most homes. Usually, dust is caused by common household activities. Other causes of dust accumulation in the house include existing renovations or recent construction nearby. Many pollutants or toxins enter the home during active construction or renovation projects before being captured or before collecting on the walls, floors, drapes, furniture, and rags.

People with allergies and asthma are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of excessive dust inhalation, which is why it is crucial to clean the interior environment regularly to remove dust. One of the simple and essential techniques to get rid of dust in the house is to dust.

Among the various varieties of dust are dirt, skin cells, dust mites, and food particles. Make it a point to get rid of the dust because constant exposure to it can be harmful to your health even if you are not sensitive to it. Children are more exposed to dust than grown-ups because children spent most of their time playing on floors where dust rests.

Humans frequently experience allergic reactions, headaches, an itchy throat, runny nose, sinusitis, nasal congestion, watery eyes, fever, coughing, and sneezing among many other symptoms after being exposed to dust.

3. Pet dander.

indoor air contaminants

Pet dander is also among the most common indoor air contaminants, especially for households with pets.

Incase you are wondering what pet dander is? it is the dead skin cells that furry animals expel. Animals typically go through a process called molting, during which they lose their hair and skin cells. The growth of new hair and healthy skin happens after the dead fur and dander come out, thus this is typically for their own good.

However, it is really nothing to worry about because all it takes is cleaning to get rid of it. Most people especially in the United States use air purifiers to get rid of pet dander because some people have pet allergies.

Pet allergy symptoms include hay fever, facial pain, rashes on the face and neck, itching, red eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, difficulty breathing, and difficulty breathing.

4. Odors.

indoor air contaminants

It is common for a household that lacks proper hygiene or regular cleaning to have some kind of bad/strong irritating odor. Again, odors emanate from different household activities hence why cleaning and ventilation being paramount.

Common household odors.

  1. Musty odors- results from mold growth.
  2. Cooking/kitchen odors- from smoke or food aromas.
  3. Rot smells- comes from lack of proper hygiene or from a dustbin.

Causes of household odors.

  • Cooking.
  • Smoke.
  • Soot.
  • Mold and bacteria growth.

To avoid bad indoor odors:

  • Clean frequently.
  • Open windows and doors every morning to allow air circulation.
  • Consider buying a diffuser.
  • Use essential oils i.e rosemary, lavender, citrus, lavender, grapefruit, lime, basil, lemon, lemongrass, tangerine, tea tree, oregano, peppermint, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, lime.
  • Invest in house sprays. You can make your own homemade spray using water and preferred essential oils.
  • Ensure your house is properly ventilated.

5. Smoke and soot.

indoor air contaminants

Soot and smoke are other common indoor air contaminants. This is usually caused by smoke from different places including a fireplace and gas from cooking. There are numerous ordinary household things that might generate soot, and these causes change from one family to the next because every home has a unique set of equipment. Candles, fireplaces, and the use of gas water heaters are a few popular household objects that might emit soot.

(i). Candles

One of the primary sources of soot is candles. The most popular uses for them include lighting, meditation, setting the mood for a romantic dinner, and at night. Candles produce a large amount of soot, some of which settles on the walls, furniture, carpet, and other surfaces, turning them black or discoloring them. As you inhale the soot-contaminated air, some soot will also end up in your lungs. Over time, this might cause respiratory problems.

Some people use scented candles to promote relaxation(meditation), to create a romantic or loving atmosphere, or to spread fragrances throughout their houses. Unfortunately, many scented candles include unsaturated oils, which when burned produce soot and may stain draperies and furniture in addition to contaminating indoor air.

(ii). Fireplace

Yet another source of soot is a fireplace. Some individuals live in homes with fireplaces to stay warm in the winter months. However, soot, one of the most prevalent indoor air pollutants, can also be produced by this fireplace.

(iii). Gas water heater

Gas water heaters are another major source of soot in and around the house. This is typically noticeable when the flame changes from being blue, which denotes a clean burn, to flickering, yellow, or orange, which causes soot buildup. As a result, thorough house cleaning is needed if you have a gas water heater and you detect a change in smell.


Effects of soot

Typically, soot enters the human body through eating, inhalation, contact with the skin, or through the eyes and nose. Inhaling soot increases the risk of developing lung problems such as asthma, bronchitis, coronary heart disease, and even cancer in severe cases.

6. VOCs.

Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs) are another common indoor air contaminant. They are usually chemical substances that quickly evaporate at room temperature and pressure. They are divided into three categories:

  • Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs).
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Very volatile organic compounds (VVOCs).

Common VOCs include; They include formaldehyde, Benzene, Ethylene glycol,1,3-butadiene, Methylene chloride, Xylene, Tetrachloroethylene, Toluene, pesticides, asbestos, butane, propane, and radon. In our future posts, we shall look at each and every one of them extensively so stay tuned.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists a number of sources of VOCs, including building materials, personal care items, and numerous household activities like smoking, cooking, dry cleaning, and photocopying.

7. Pests.

indoor air contaminants

It is common for households to include different kinds of pests. However, with proper cleanliness and a strategic plan, it is easy to get rid of these pests. Additionally, some pests are simply attracted to what you have in the house so it is very important to check on that in order to avoid them in the future or be aware of what to do when the problem reoccurs again.

Some of these pests include:

  • Spiders
  • Silverfish
  • Roaches
  • Ants
  • Bedbugs
  • Fleas
  • Gnats
  • Centipedes

These pests frequently penetrate dwellings and are a concern in humid environments. But because they pose health issues, they need to be eliminated always. These health issues include:

  1. Transmission of a number of illnesses, including dengue, yellow fever, leishmaniasis, and malaria)
  2. Poisonous bites from insects like centipedes and spiders can be lethal.
  3. Contamination of food.
  4. Ache and swelling
  5. Allergic responses.
  6. Can cause headaches and nausea.
  7. Can serve as a pathogen’s vector.
  8. Neurotoxicity
  9. Heart ischemia

8. Carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is yet another pollutant in indoor air. Uncompleted combustion produces carbon monoxide, an invisible and colorless gas that, in extreme cases, can be harmful to human health.

Carbon monoxide can be produced by a number of things, such as smoking, gas fireplace leaks, and damaged furnaces for people who have them.

Unfortunately, unless you have a carbon monoxide detector installed, you might not be able to detect carbon monoxide because it has no smell or color. However, the following symptoms make it simple to identify the presence of carbon monoxide:

  • Frequent headaches.
  • Confusion.
  • Chest pain.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Intense body weakness
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Note: If you have a fireplace, furnace and there is a smoker in the house, the above symptoms could be as a result of carbon monoxide. Check if there are any gas leaks as that could indicate carbon monoxide.

Consider knowing the safety measures to follow upon noticing a carbon monoxide leak before it occurs for you and your entire family so that you can cope with a carbon monoxide gas leakage problem in the indoor air.

These safety recommendations include:

  • Recognizing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • opening ALL windows and doors in the event of a carbon monoxide leak.
  • Leaving the room as soon as a carbon monoxide leak is detected just to be safe.
  • When carbon monoxide is discovered, call the local fire department right away.


As discussed above, there are a couple of household contaminants that are usually present in our households that we are not even aware of. These contaminants have different effects on our health and for that reason, those who are concerned about their health take critical measures to get rid of these contaminants.

To get rid of these contaminants, one has to take house hygiene seriously and not just body and dental hygiene. This means that proper house cleanliness is required as the first way to get rid of common indoor air contaminants.

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