6 Common Indoor Air Pollutants

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About 40% of indoor space suffers from poor indoor air quality. Know what the common air pollutants are, how they impact health, and what it takes to eradicate them.


How healthy is the air entering your nostrils right now? Chances are it could be better. Four out of 10 United States residents live in areas with poor-quality air. That's 135 million, and you may be one of them.

Several indoor pollution sources are the culprits behind common indoor air pollutants that cause adverse health effects. Below is an overview of different types of indoor air pollutants and their sources and how you can prevent them from entering buildings, homes, or construction sites. 

The Importance of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Left untreated, the long-term effects of inhaling major air pollutants can be devastating. These pollutants account for 11.65% of deaths around the globe every year and remain one of the leading causes of long-term disease.

Some of the major health consequences of continued inhalation of bad air include: 

  • Asthma
  • Respiratory diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes and heart attacks
  • Impaired cognitive development for infants and fetuses

However, there are many ways to reduce air pollution. For one, building owners can install indoor air quality (IAQ) sensors to perform constant indoor air quality inspections. As the IAQ sensors analyze these metrics, data funnels into a software program and alerts building managers as soon as levels become dangerous. 

Tracking air quality is also vital in construction settings. IAQ sensors measure and test for dust, fine particles from building materials, and toxic fumes. Many of these particles are extremely hazardous, so tracing and managing these levels helps reduce project liability exposure. IAQ monitoring also prevents infrastructural damage by tracking humidity metrics, as excess humidity can cause long-term building damage. 

Identifying indoor air pollution sources is the first step to eliminating them. But first, you must be familiar with the origins of common pollutants. 

6 Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution and Their Risks

Unhealthy air doesn't spring up out of nowhere. Below, we'll explore the six most common indoor air pollutants, why they're harmful, and how to prevent them from entering indoor air. 

Combustion Byproducts

If you recall ninth-grade physical science, you might remember that matter doesn't disappear when burned. It converts into smoke, gas, or tiny particles. These are known as combustion byproducts and can cause severe health damage. 

Combustion byproducts originate from heating sources, like gas stoves, furnaces, space heaters, and tobacco smoke. As combustion occurs, the gases, liquid, or burned solids release harmful particulate matter and gases into the air, such as:

  • Carbon monoxide: Causes headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and eventual heart disease
  • Nitrogen dioxide: Causes dizziness, headaches, wheezing, chronic lung disease
  • Sulfur dioxide: Causes nose, throat, and lung irritation, and even infertility or death with long-term exposure

Outdoor air pollution can infiltrate buildings. So, to defend from outside pollution, install filters and change them frequently, as well as implement sensors to detect and alert you to rising pollution levels. It's also important to know the WHO air quality guidelines, which provide strict details on how to keep air levels safe.

Biological Contaminants

Mold, mildew, bacteria, and dust mites are all biological contaminants that threaten human health. These common indoor pollutants thrive in certain conditions. 

For example, mold and mildew grow in damp, dark climates, meaning it's essential to eliminate the moisture before you can eliminate the mold. Many people have pets, such as cats and dogs, and most animals with fur will have pet dander. Likewise, larger animals, like roaches and rats, leave bio-contaminants through droppings and shed hair that can cause shortness of breath and eye, nose, and throat irritation. You can cut off food sources and entry points to eliminate these pests, but that won't make the air quality improve immediately.

There are also outside threats that need to be sealed off or filtered out from the inside. Plant life can cause pollen and excess carbon dioxide, leading to long-term respiratory concerns and severe allergies. 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

A VOC is an organic chemical that dissolves into airstreams at certain temperatures. Exposure to certain VOCs, like Benzene, often leads to severe illness, including certain forms of cancer and blood disorders. 

Secondhand smoke and certain paints, air fresheners, and cleaning chemicals carry these compounds, so it's essential to have sensors to analyze and alert you when VOCs are present. 


Ground-level ozone is one of the six common air pollutants outlined by the EPA. It's often mistaken for good ozone, which stays in the upper atmosphere. However, "bad" ozone forms at ground levels and results from certain chemicals reacting to sunlight. For example, when car exhaust interacts with sunlight, it releases breathable ozone. Other sources include:

  • Industrial boilers
  • Refineries
  • Chemical plants

Significant ozone exposure may cause existing lung diseases and cause pain while breathing. To eliminate it, use an air purifier with a high-quality filter. 

Asbestos-Containing Materials

The primary source of asbestos is building materials, like insulation, cement, or certain fabrics. For the most part, the use of asbestos has rapidly declined in the United States, but it's still found in roughly one in five buildings. 

Asbestos is deadly, contributing to lung cancer, mesothelioma, or ovarian cancer. If any traces of asbestos are found, evacuate the building and call a professional removal company immediately. 

Harmful Chemicals

In the modern age, toxic compounds are everywhere: cleaning compounds, construction materials, new furniture, and dangerous chemicals can all be linked to many long-term illnesses. Common chemicals include: 

  • Pesticides: Often used indoors for pest and fungi control
  • Lead: Harmful material often found in construction materials or fuels
  • Radon: Odorless gas released from the earth's crust which seeps in through groundwater and soil

Testing kits allow building owners to test for all three of these contaminants.

Benefit From the Only Customizable IAQ Solution on the Market

The effects of poor air quality are more than slight allergies or a foul odor. It can cause terminal illness and long-term cognitive impairment in the worst cases. For building owners, this poses significant liabilities.

Avoiding these risks requires equipping your building, home, or construction site with a dependable and comprehensive IAQ solution.

Attune's IAQ solution is the only available system that allows you to tailor your hardware and software to the unique demands of your building. Get real-time data reported directly to your devices as you track:

  • Humidity
  • CO2
  • VOCs
  • Mold and mildew
  • Ozone and radon levels
  • Harmful chemicals

All of our solutions are completely scalable and easy to integrate. To learn more, visit our page to schedule a demo.

Book a Demo here!

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