Indoor Air and Health

cigarettes, air cleaner, woman painting

Indoor air quality (IAQ) directly affects people's health. Understanding and controlling common indoor air pollutants can help reduce the risk of health problems like heart disease, asthma, and even death. It's very important to test for very dangerous odorless air pollutants like radon and carbon monoxide. Learn more about indoor air pollutants and how you can improve indoor air quality.

Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Make your home smoke-free.

Get help if you or a family member needs help to quit smoking. It's free to call the Smoker's Quitline: (866) 697-8487.

Test for radon.

Follow all test instructions to ensure accurate results.

Protect yourself from deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm that is certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and test the alarm at least twice a year.
  • Never use ovens or other cooking appliances for warmth or use grills indoors.
  • Schedule annual maintenance and perform regular checks on heating and cooling systems.
  • Make sure your portable generator is placed outdoors and away from windows and doors.

Stay out of rooms with strong chemical odors.

Allow fresh paint, new carpets, cabinets, and building materials to off-gas and become odor-free. Stay out rooms until paint dries and the area is odor free. If possible, keep new carpets, cabinets, and building materials outside for a few days.

Prevent mold and dust allergens.

  • Keep your home clean and dry by fixing leaks and removing standing water as soon as you can to prevent mold.
  • If you have pets, try to keep them off the furniture and out of the room where you sleep. Pets with fur or feathers can release dander and other allergens into the air.
  • Stop dust from building up, even in places by getting rid of clutter, washing bedding regularly, and keeping your home clean.

Clear the air.

  • Improve ventilation by increasing the amount of fresh air entering a space. Open windows and doors in areas that don’t have HVAC systems and use fans to bring in fresh air from outside. In buildings with HVAC systems, change settings to increase the amount of fresh air.
  • Open windows or use exhaust fans to stop steam from building up in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Avoid bringing in air from outside when outdoor air is unhealthy. If it’s too hot indoors and you need to cool off find a place to get cool.
  • Use indoor air cleaners such as heating, ventilation, and air condition systems (HVACs) or portable devices. Avoid using ozone generating air cleaners.

Types of Air Pollutants

  • Particulate matter. Particulate matter (PM) refers to tiny particles of solids or liquids in air that come from common sources such as cooking, cleaning, burning candles, tobacco smoke, and operating fireplaces. Particulate matter can include dust, pollen, mold, animal dander, and other common allergens.
  • Infectious aerosols. Infectious aerosols are tiny particles and droplets that can cause infection, like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • Gases. Examples of gases are radon, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can come from stoves and other appliances that burn fuel. Gases can also come from building materials, carpets and flooring, paints, solvents, cleaning products, aerosol sprays, deodorizers, personal care products, office equipment, and pesticides or occur naturally like radon.

Specific Air Pollutants and Sources

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, gas. It is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. Carbon monoxide comes from appliances that burn fuels such as wood, oil, natural gas, propane, kerosene, coal, and gasoline. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mold spores are everywhere, including in your home. It can grow on any surface that has sufficient moisture. Control moisture and water problems to prevent mold growth.

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in New York State and nationally. There is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 substances and cigarette smoking can increase the levels of other indoor air contaminants because they linger in the air with the smoke. Secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke as well as tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC), which can cause health effects, especially in children. Make your home smoke-free. Get help if you or a family member needs help to quit smoking. It's free to call the Smoker's Quitline: (866) 697-8487.

VOCs are chemicals that are released as gases when certain products are used. VOCs come from many products and indoor furnishings. Sources of VOCs include fuels, paints, pesticides, personal care products, new furniture, and rubber roofing adhesives. Take steps to reduce levels of VOCs indoors and avoid indoor air quality problems during roofing projects.

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas found in soil and rock that can seep into buildings through cracks in the foundation, walls, and joints. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You can’t see, smell, or taste it, but radon could be present at a dangerous level in your home. The only way to know if your home has high radon levels is to test it.