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5 Common Chemical Pollutants That Can Affect Indoor Air Quality

Homes in Arlington, Virginia, are often sealed well to conserve energy. While your utility bills may be more manageable, indoor pollutants tend to accumulate when the air exchange rate inside your home is low. Therefore, it’s important to discover strategies for reducing your exposure to common chemical pollutants in the home and avoid poor indoor air quality.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Many household products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including:

  • Paints and paint finishes
  • Wood preservatives
  • Adhesives and glues
  • Permanent markers
  • Moth repellents
  • Commercial air fresheners

Exposure to VOCs can cause a variety of short- and long-term health effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of coordination
  • Kidney, liver and central nervous system damage

To a href=”/blog/what-affects-indoor-air-quality”>avoid problems with indoor air quality, always follow manufacturer instructions when storing and using household cleaning agents or other products. Provide adequate ventilation by opening windows and using fans whenever you’re working with solvents such as paint strippers. Don’t store paints and similar materials inside your home, as gases can leak through even sealed containers. As a result, you’ll reduce exposure to VOCs.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that formaldehyde is found in a variety of materials, such as home-building and household products. Therefore, it’s important to know which materials and products contain this chemical. As a byproduct of combustion, formaldehyde can cause:

  • Watery eyes
  • A burning sensation in the throat and mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash
  • Difficulty breathing

Formaldehyde is present in pressed-wood products that contain adhesives made from urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins, such as:

  • Particleboard
  • Hardwood paneling
  • Medium-density fiberboard

When products are new or exposed to high humidity levels and temperatures inside a home, they can release more formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known cancer-causing agent. Therefore, reducing your exposure is vitally important.

Before bringing new products into your home, check with manufacturers to be certain their items don’t contain formaldehyde. Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers to keep temperatures moderate and humidity levels low. Use proper air ventilation when you bring home new pieces of furniture. As a result, you’ll reduce potential emissions from existing products in your home,


Products containing pesticides include insect repellents and cleaning products sold as disinfectants. Other sources of pesticides include treated soil or dust that enters your home through open doors or windows. The EPA notes that exposure to pesticides can cause:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Damage to the liver and kidneys

Carefully select your pest-control methods. Try to use non-chemical methods when possible. Store and discard any pesticides according to manufacturer instructions. As a result, you’ll reduce your exposure to potential pesticides.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that’s deadly in high concentrations. Therefore, it’s important pay special attention to the sources of it. Common sources of carbon monoxide include:

  • Unvented gas and kerosene heaters
  • Fireplaces
  • Wood stoves
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages
  • Gas water heaters

The EPA cautions that exposure to carbon monoxide can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea
  • Reduced brain function
  • Death

If you think you or members of your household have been exposed to carbon monoxide, seek medical attention immediately.

A carbon monoxide detector is essential to alerting you to the presence of carbon monoxide in your home. Place one near sleeping areas and on each floor of your home. Make sure you replace batteries twice a year unless they’re designed to last for the life of the detector. Avoid using gas or kerosene appliances in the home that don’t have proper ventilation. As a result, you’ll reduce the risk of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and even death.

Combustion Byproducts

Cigarettes, fireplaces, gas ranges, and wood stoves all release toxic gases, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Cracked furnace heat exchangers and improperly maintained chimneys can also contribute to combustion byproduct buildup in the home. The EPA observes that exposure can cause:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Dangers similar to carbon monoxide poisoning

Properly install and maintain all gas appliances in your home. Change the air filters in your central air conditioning and heating system regularly. As a result, you’ll reduce your exposure.

Brennan’s Heating & Air Conditioning can help you reduce your exposure to chemical pollutants in the home. Contact us at 703-783-0145 for an indoor air quality evaluation of your home’s living spaces. As a result, you’ll live a healthier life.

Image provided by Shutterstock

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