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Indoor air pollution

What is indoor air pollution?

You probably know it can be harmful to breathe in polluted air when you’re outside. The same is true for when you’re indoors. We spend about 90% of our time indoors – at home, work, school, or when we go to shops or restaurants.  

Indoor air pollution is dust, dirt, or gases in the air inside buildings such as your home or workplace that could be harmful to breathe in. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to lung diseases like asthma, COPD and lung cancer. It has also been linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.  

Types of air pollution include: 

  • particulate matter (pm) – tiny particles of dust and dirt in the air, such as soot and dust mites 
  • gases – for example carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur dioxide 

Indoor air pollution can be caused by anything from gas stoves and wood burners, to damp and mould. 

Who can be affected by poor indoor air quality?

Anyone can be affected by indoor air pollution. If you live with a lung condition, such as COPD, asthma, or bronchiectasis, you’re more likely to be affected by poor air quality as your lungs are more sensitive – although not everyone has the same reactions to the dust, dirt and gases in our homes. 

If you have a severe lung condition you might find it harder to move around, so may spend more time indoors. This means you may have more contact with things that affect the air you breathe indoors. These could include cigarette smoke, cleaning products or mould.

Children are particularly vulnerable to poor indoor air quality as their lungs are still developing. Children’s airways are smaller, so inflammation caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution can cause them to narrow more easily than in older people. 

Download our indoor air pollution information (PDF, 504KB)

Next: What are the causes and effects of indoor air pollution?

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