How Air Pollutants Affect Human Health

sneezingAir pollutants contain hundreds of millions of contaminants which degrade the air quality and can have detrimental effects on human health. These contaminants come to conditioned spaces from the outdoor environment or they can be a direct product of some bacteria activities inside your home. The following are some of the most common contaminants and the impact they can have on your health and comfort.

Allergens – These come from dust, smoking fumes, cooking exhaust, pets, molds, tobacco smoke, and other sources. They can potentially cause eye, sinus and skin irritation.

Bacteria and Viruses – These come from moisture, pets, human carriers and accumulated water.

Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen – These are just some of the poisonous gases that result from incomplete combustion of fuels, evaporation of stored chemicals and burning of rubber.

Formaldehyde and VOCs – These pollutants come from furniture polishes, cleaning products and construction materials.

Effects on Air Quality, Health and Comfort

The contaminants mentioned above can significantly affect your health and that of your family both in the short and long run. The intensity of the effect these contaminants have is not the same, but varies from one pollutant to the other. Some of them will make you sick while others will give you an allergic reaction. Some pollutants just have unpleasant though harmless odor.

Contaminants with Short Term Effects

When gases are in high concentration in conditioned areas, they can lead to fatalities. Carbon dioxide, biological contaminants and bacteria normally have short term effects. Carbon dioxide is an odorless and colorless gas which is a product of incomplete combustion of fuel oils or malfunctioning of some combustion appliances such as water heater, furnace or stove.

Some bacteria that cause diseases are transmitted by air. For instance, tubercle bacillus, the bacteria causing tuberculosis is one such type of bacteria which stays afloat in air and can be prevented by either isolation or ventilation methods.


These are pollutants which contribute to cancer. Carcinogens give no symptoms of ill health until the person is affected by the disease. Tobacco smoke is one of the common sources of carcinogens and can lead to heart and lung cancer. Radon is another gas which is carcinogenic and results from the decay of radium in the soil.

Contaminants with Detrimental Health Effects

These are contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, volatile organic compounds and allergens. They cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and mucus membrane. They can also cause rashes or cold-like symptoms.

In addition to the above contaminants, there are others that are not health hazardous but can cause irritation or destruction to occupants. These include body odors, odoriferous chemicals, molds and rotten foods.

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