Article: EPA’s Report on the Environment

“Indoor air quality” refers to the quality of the air in a home, school, office, or other building environment. The potential impact of indoor air quality on human health nationally can be considerable for several reasons:

  • Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors,1 where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.2
  • People who are often most susceptible to the adverse effects of pollution (e.g., the very young, older adults, people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease) tend to spend even more time indoors.3
  • Indoor concentrations of some pollutants have increased in recent decades due to such factors as energy-efficient building construction (when it lacks sufficient mechanical ventilation to ensure adequate air exchange) and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners.

Pollutants and Sources

Typical pollutants of concern include:

  • Combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and environmental tobacco smoke.
  • Substances of natural origin such as radon, pet dander, and mold.
  • Biological agents such as molds.
  • Pesticides, lead, and asbestos.
  • Ozone (from some air cleaners).
  • Various volatile organic compounds from a variety of products and materials.

Health effects associated with indoor air pollutants include:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
  • Respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.
The link between some common indoor air pollutants (e.g., radon, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, Legionella bacterium) and health effects is very well established.


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