What We Can Do About Indoor Air Contaminants

Reviewed by Phillip Waite, Ph.D.

Most of us are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage our health but we may not know that indoor air pollution might pose a more significant risk to us. It has been shown that indoor air levels of many contaminants may be 2-5 higher than outside air levels. This is a problem because it is estimated that we spend 90% of our time indoors. Our homes are built more tightly to save energy but the resulting poor ventilation traps the contaminants inside. Synthetic building materials, furnishings, carpeting, chemically formulated personal care products and household cleaners all play a part in reducing the quality of our indoor air.

Since starting The Breathing Company here in Santa Cruz, I have been made aware of people within our community who are becoming ill as they perform seeming innocent daily errands. One individual became sick after just a short trip to the grocery store where a floor had been cleaned with an offending chemical. Some people are forced to minimize their exposure to the outside world and keep strict guidelines for their indoor environments.

More and more of us are becoming affected as we are increasingly exposed to toxic chemicals in our environments. As our bodies fight to deal with this exposure, our immune systems become overworked and we start to experience allergic responses. These responses can manifest in a variety of ways and it is often difficult pinpoint the exact allergen making us sick.

So what can we do? Avoidance is the best way in which to reduce exposure to environmental pollutants. This is often difficult, given the fact that we may not always know what chemicals are being used in any given environment. When making purchases for our homes and offices, ask about chemicals that may have been used in the product's manufacturing process. Use environmental control products designed to control or block allergens in our environments. And most important, pay attention to how we feel when something new is introduced into our environment. Sometimes our bodies give us warning signs that can help us eliminate many allergens from our environment.

We hope that the partial list below of common contaminants, their sources, and solutions will help you find ways to reduce the allergens in your environment. As always, give us a call with any questions or comments you may have. We would love to hear from you!





Excessive Moisture

Keep humidity below 50%; use a dehumidifier, air purifier

Dust mites and waste

Infested bedding, high humidity

Use dust mite barriers; wash bedding weekly in hot water

Animal dander, saliva, urine

Pets in the home

Animals outside; wash bedding; use pet dander products


Brought in on clothing and pets

Use an air purifier, brush pets outside




Gaseous Contaminants




Carpets, particle board, clothing, etc.

Do not purchase products that have formaldehyde in them


Stored fuels

Do not store fuels near home


Moth Balls

Use natural products for moth control

Benzene, Acetone, Chloroform, Carbon Tetrachloride

Cleaning products and solvents

Purchase natural or non-toxic cleaning products and personal care products

Nicotine Gas

Cigarette, Cigars

Avoid smoking in your home


Pressed wood products

Avoid pressed wood products

Natural Gas

Stoves, heaters, dryers

Call PG&E if you suspect a leak

Did you find this article helpful? Join us at HealingWell for support and information about Allergies. Connect and share with others like you.

Jude Daley, was the founder and owner of The Breathing Company, was inspired to start an allergy and asthma resource center through caring for her asthmatic son. Frustrated with lack of local resources, Jude used her business background and strong sense of determination to bring her unique company to life. She is committed to pass along what she has discovered in hopes of helping others.

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