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Common Indoor Air Pollutants, Sources & Health Effects

Asbestos
Sources: Insulation on pipes and ducts, wood stove gaskets, ceiling tiles, resilient flooring and tiles, thermal insulation; deteriorating, damaged or disturbed insulation, fireproofing, or acoustical material
Health Effects: Lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma

Biological Contaminants
Sources: Mold, mildews, fungi, bacteria, viruses, dust mites; wet or moist walls, ceilings, carpets and furniture; poorly maintained humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air conditioning; bedding, household pets
Health Effects: Allergies, respiratory irritation, infectious diseases; eye, nose and throat irritations; fever, humidifier fever; influenza

Combustion Products
Sources: Unvented space heaters (natural gas, kerosene, fuel oil, and charcoal), unvented gas stoves, wood stoves and fireplaces; tobacco smoke; human respiration; outside air
Health Effects: Headaches, drowsiness, dizziness (carbon dioxide); impairment of vision and brain functioning, irregular heart functioning, nausea, mental confusion, death (carbon monoxide); respiratory distress and lung damage (nitrogen dioxide)

Particulates
Sources: Dust, pollen, cleaning and cooking sprays; environmental tobacco smoke; fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, unvented gas or space heaters
Health Effects: eye, nose, throat irritation; respiratory infections and bronchitis; lung cancer (long term risk)

Formaldehyde
Sources: Pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products: urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) and furnishings made with urea formaldehyde; finishes on home textiles, durable press drapes, and some glues
Health Effects: Irritation of skin, eyes, nose and throat; respiratory irritation, respiratory function impairment; cancer; chromosome damage

Volatile Organic Compounds
Sources: Household chemicals and products (including pesticides, painting supplies, solvents, adhesives, cleaners and waxes, moth crystals, air fresheners, fabric protectors, chlorine bleach), aerosol propellants; dry cleaned products; tobacco smoke and combustion processes
Health Effects: Range of possible effects from headaches, eye and respiratory irritations to central nervous system disorders; liver/kidney effects; cancer; chromosome damage.

Contaminant Breakdown