Keeping Your Air Clean: 11 Factors that Impact Your Indoor Air Quality Part 2

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), results from the smoke that others have to smell when tobacco products like cigars and cigarettes are burned. The health effects of smoking are well known: lung cancer, cardiovascular disease (strokes and heart disease), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), more frequent and severe asthma attacks, and other serious health problems. The same risks are associated with exposure to secondhand smoke.

Radon (Rn)

Like carbon monoxide, radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is almost impossible to detect without specific radon testing. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from uranium found in the Earth. The gas can enter your home through cracks in the foundation and other openings throughout your home. The radioactive particles present in radon gas do severe damage to the sensitive tissue in your lungs when inhaled and can lead to cancer. There are no immediate symptoms of radon exposure, as the gas is scentless and colorless, making it difficult to know if you have been exposed to dangerous levels in your home.

Wood Smoke

In the US, the common source of wood smoke is from indoor fireplaces, as wood stoves are not really common anymore. When wood is burned, the smoke released from the fire is a complex mixture of gasses and fine microscopic particles (particulate matter). The particulate matter in some can cause asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, or other severe respiratory diseases when they enter the lungs and worsen other chronic lung and heart diseases.

Indoor Particulate Matter

Particulate matter, or particle pollution, describes airborne solid particles, ranging from microscopic to particulate large enough to be seen by the human eye, like dirt, dust, or smoke. Once inhaled, this particulate matter can lead to or worsen various cardiovascular or respiratory issues.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gasses emitted from certain liquids or solids. These gasses can be emitted from various everyday household products: glues, aerosol sprays, degreasers, paints, solvents, disinfectants, and air fresheners. The different VOCs can range from harmless to highly toxic. Short-term exposures can be irritating, while long-term exposure can lead to more serious nervous system and cancer-related issues. When using these products, be sure to always ventilate with fresh air.


Pesticides are chemicals used to control termites, pests, insects, microbes and rodents. These chemicals are toxic to people as well. Pesticides are common in houses across the US. High concentrations of pesticides inside the house can irritate the nose, the eyes, throat, and skin in the short term and cause cancer or nervous system damage after long-term exposure.

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