Pollution and Wastes

Which pollutants lead to indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution, also known as “sick building syndrome,” results from conditions in modern, high energy efficiency buildings, that have reduced outside air exchange, or have inadequate ventilation, chemical contamination, and microbial contamination. Indoor air pollution can produce various symptoms, such as headache, nausea, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. In addition, houses are affected by indoor air pollution emanating from consumer and building products and from tobacco smoke. Below are listed some pollutants found in houses:

Pollutant Sources Effects
Asbestos Old or damaged insulation, fireproofing, or acoustical tiles Many years later, chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases
Biological pollutants Bacteria, mold, and mildew; viruses; animal dander and cat saliva; mites; cockroaches; pollen Eye, nose, and throat irritation; shortness of breath; dizziness; lethargy; fever; digestive problems; asthma; influenza and other infectious diseases
Carbon monoxide Unvented kerosene and gas heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; wood stoves and fireplaces; gas stoves; automobile exhaust from attached garages; tobacco smoke At low levels, fatigue; at higher levels, impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea; fatal at very high concentrations
Formaldehyde Plywood, wall paneling, particle board, and fiber-board; foam insulation; fire and tobacco smoke; textiles and glues Eye, nose, and throat irritations; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions; may cause cancer
Lead Automobile exhaust; sanding or burning of lead paint; soldering Impaired mental and physical development in children; decreased coordination and mental abilities; kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cell damage
Mercury Some latex paints Vapors can cause kidney damage; long-term exposure can cause brain damage
Nitrogen dioxide Kerosene heaters and unvented gas stoves and heaters; tobacco smoke Eye, nose, and throat irritation; may impair lung function and increase respiratory infections in young children
Organic gases Paints, paint strippers, solvents, and wood preservatives; aerosol sprays; cleansers and disinfectants; moth repellents; air fresheners; stored fuels; hobby; supplies dry-cleaned clothing Eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and nervous system; some organics cause cancer in animals and are suspected of causing cancer in humans
Pesticides Products used to kill household pests and products used on lawns or gardens that drift or are tracked inside the house Irritation to eye, nose, and throat; damage to nervous systems and kidneys; cancer
Radon Earth and rock beneath the home; well water, building materials No immediate symptoms; estimated to cause about ten percent of lung cancer deaths; smokers at higher risk


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