5 Common Indoor Air Pollutants You Probably Didn’t Know!

healthy home

A healthy home is all a person needs to stay safe, secure and healthy given the fact that we spend most of our time indoors. However, your house can also be a source of various air pollutants which can have a significant impact on your overall health. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, 8 million people die every year globally because of air pollution, of which around 4.3 million die because of air pollution from household sources. The Global Burden of Disease Report revealed that household air pollution is the leading cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in Southeast Asia.

According to a 2016 study titled Household Air Pollution And Its Effect On Health[1], there are at least sixty sources of household air pollution. The effects of indoor air pollutants such as particulate matter, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), etc on the respiratory system are well-known, however, it can also impact your hormonal levels, heart health and the nervous system[2]. Moreover, household pollutants can also increase your risk of various types of cancers. So in this article, we will explain the common sources of household pollutants and how to keep your house healthy with simple measures such as investing in an air purifier.

Common sources of indoor air pollution

There are numerous sources in your house that can lead to an unhealthy home. Here are some of the common along with tips to avoid if you want a healthy home.

1. Cooking

The method of cooking contributes to indoor air pollution. The levels of particulate matter released in the air during the cooking process are extremely high. Various cooking methods such as stir-frying, deep or shallow frying, charbroiling, roasting, and grilling have different emission levels of particulate matter. Moreover, oil used in cooking emits a significant amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which further add to the household air pollutants.

2. Smoking

Tobacco smoking, be it first-hand, second-hand or third-hand smoke, within a house is a major source of indoor air pollution. First-hand smoke, also known as active smoking, is when a person who smokes is exposed to the smoke himself. Secondhand smoke is when other members in the house (mostly kids and elders) inhale the smoke when a person smokes. Third-hand smoke is when a person inhales the particles emitted while smoking which is settled on clothes, furnishings, hair, and floor.

Cigarette smoke contains 7,357 different chemical compounds which range from carbon monoxide, PAHs, phenols, nicotine, benzene, cyanide, formaldehyde, and heavy metals. Moreover, it also emits significant amounts of particulate, mainly PM2.5. Studies have reported that burning one cigarette can emit around 7 mg to 23 mg of PM2.5.

3. Mosquito coils

Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue are one of the biggest health menaces. And the use of mosquito repellents such as mosquito coils is one of the most commonly used ways for mosquito control. However, studies[1] have shown that burning of one mosquito coil emits particulate matter which is equivalent to burning 100 cigarettes and PAH equivalent to burning 50 cigarettes. Moreover, the levels of PM2.5 and carbon monoxide are around 2,200 times and 10 times the limits permissible by the WHO, respectively, when the mosquito coil is burnt with doors and windows closed.

4. Perfumes and cleaning agents

Poor ventilation causes accumulation of indoor pollutants such as kitchen odors, dust, etc. So to improve the hygiene and make a house odor-free, air fresheners such as perfumes and scents are used. However, these products are loaded with various gases which act as indoor pollutants. The fragrance contains high levels of nitrous oxide, PAHs, benzene and carbon monoxide. Studies[1] have revealed that burning of scented candles can emit high levels of particulate matter such as PM2.5 and PM10.

5. Paints and seepage

Paints and varnishes used in houses emit high levels of volatile compounds and gases, which further increase the burden of household air pollutants. Faulty plumbing can cause seepage of water, which increases the incidences of wall dampness. This, in turn, can act as an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, fungi, and molds. These microbes release spores, toxic compounds and volatile compounds which contribute to indoor air pollution.

How to fight indoor air pollution?

One of the most simple and effective ways to prevent indoor air pollution is to improve air quality at home. This can be achieved by using an air purifier at home which not only filters out particulate matter and harmful gases but also lowers your risk of health complications caused due to indoor pollution and keeps you and your family healthy. Additionally,

– Ensure cooking areas are well-ventilated because poor ventilation can cause accumulation of the particulate matter pollutants inside the house. Ensure you keep your windows open as it acts as the best form of natural ventilation[3].

– Avoid smoking indoors as it not only causes indoor pollution but also increases your risk of various health problems right from lungs disease to cancer.

– Clean bed sheets, curtains, pillow covers, and air conditioning units more often than not as they not only harbor dust but also act as breeding grounds for various fungi and bacteria, which can increase pollution level indoors.

– When using mosquito coils, it is preferred to keep both the doors and the windows open so as to ensure that the level of pollutants drops down to the safety limits. Moreover, you can opt for other mosquito repellents such as vaporizers, sprays, ointments, and medicated papers which produce as much particulate matter as the coils.

This article is sponsored by Honeywell Air Purifiers.


1. Apte K, Salvi S. Household air pollution and its effects on health. F1000Res. 2016 Oct 28;5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5089137/

2. Ghorani-Azam A, Riahi-Zanjani B, Balali-Mood M. Effects of air pollution on human health and practical measures for prevention in Iran. J Res Med Sci. 2016 Sep 1;21:65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122104/

3. Kankaria A, Nongkynrih B, Gupta SK. Indoor air pollution in India: implications on health and its control. Indian J Community Med. 2014 Oct;39(4):203-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4215499/

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