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Silent Threats: 17 Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Poor indoor air quality can negatively affect your health—from asthma to cognitive issues, here’s a complete list of concerns to watch out for.

When it comes to health concerns, we often think about diet, exercise, sleep, and other behaviors. What’s sometimes overlooked is the environment where we spend our time. The air quality inside our homes and workplaces has a significant impact on our well-being. Poor indoor air quality is a silent threat that can trigger a range of health issues, from respiratory problems to cognitive impairments. In this article, we explore the various health effects of poor indoor air quality and why it’s crucial to pay attention to the air we breathe indoors.

17 Health Effects of Poor Air Quality

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health effects of poor air quality

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1. Asthma

Asthma is a common respiratory condition, and for those who suffer from it, poor IAQ can be a trigger for symptoms and exacerbate attacks [1]. Dust mites, pet dander, and mold are common indoor allergens that can worsen asthma symptoms, making it essential to maintain good IAQ, especially in homes of asthma sufferers.

2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Individuals with COPD are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poor IAQ, as it can worsen their symptoms and decrease lung function [2]. To mitigate these risks, proper ventilation and air filtration systems are crucial for those living with COPD.

3. Allergic Rhinitis

Poor IAQ can lead to sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes in individuals with allergies, causing discomfort and reducing their overall quality of life [3]. Identifying and eliminating allergens indoors can significantly alleviate these symptoms.

4. Eczema

Exposure to allergens in indoor air can worsen eczema symptoms, causing skin irritation and discomfort [4]. Maintaining a clean and allergen-free living environment is vital for those with eczema.

5. Sinusitis

Poor IAQ can contribute to sinus infections and inflammation [5]. Ensuring proper ventilation and minimizing the presence of airborne irritants can help reduce the risk of sinus problems.

6. Bronchitis

Irritants in indoor air can lead to acute or chronic bronchitis, making it essential to address IAQ concerns [6]. Regular air quality assessments can identify potential sources of indoor irritants.

7. Headaches

Indoor air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can trigger headaches [7]. Adequate ventilation and the use of air purifiers can help reduce exposure to these compounds.

8. Fatigue

Breathing poor IAQ may lead to fatigue and a general feeling of unwellness [8]. Improving IAQ can help boost energy levels and overall vitality.

9. Eye Irritation

Irritants in indoor air can cause dry eyes, redness, and itching [9]. Simple steps like using humidifiers and maintaining clean air can alleviate eye discomfort.

10. Nausea

Certain indoor air pollutants can induce feelings of nausea and discomfort [10]. Identifying and removing the sources of these pollutants is crucial for a healthy indoor environment.

11. Cognitive Impairment

Poor IAQ can impair cognitive function and concentration, affecting work and learning [11]. To maximize productivity and well-being, maintaining clean and healthy indoor air is essential, especially in schools.

12. Cardiovascular Issues

Long-term exposure to indoor pollutants can contribute to cardiovascular problems [12]. Implementing air quality improvement measures can reduce the risk of heart-related issues.

13. Sleep Disorders

Breathing poor IAQ may disrupt sleep patterns and lead to sleep disorders [13]. Adequate ventilation and air purification can create a conducive environment for restful sleep.

14. Immune System Suppression

Prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections such as influenza and COVID-19 [14]. Prioritizing IAQ can help bolster immunity.

15. Childhood Development

Poor IAQ can impact children’s physical and cognitive development, potentially leading to learning disabilities [15]. Creating a clean and healthy indoor environment is crucial for children’s well-being.

16. Lung Disease

Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of infections and chronic lung diseases [16]. Regular IAQ assessments and preventative measures such as the use of indoor air quality monitors can reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses.

17. Cancer

Long-term exposure to specific indoor pollutants, like radon and certain VOCs, may increase the risk of cancer [17]. Testing for radon and minimizing exposure to carcinogenic substances is essential for cancer prevention.


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Marissa Amenta

Marissa Amenta leads operations and finance at YourIAQ and Sensables. She is also the Director of Operations for the data-driven companies Pandio and Local Data Exchange. Marissa formerly worked as an investment analyst vetting new clean energy technologies, and studied finance and sustainable business at Northeastern University.