Pollutants You Need To Be Aware Of

The following list discusses some air pollutants that you may not have known you were at risk of encountering.

We all know that air pollution from sources like cigarettes, factories, and automobiles is bad for the environment and can affect our health, but many people fail to realize that they are personally at risk for pollution-caused health problems. Whether at home, work, or outside, you may be exposed to damaging atmospheric pollution without even realizing it. The following list discusses some air pollutants that you may not have known you were at risk of encountering.


VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are found in many common household products, including paint, lacquer, cleaning supplies, building materials, and printer ink. If you work in construction or in an office environment, your exposure to these compounds is likely much higher than average. Certain VOCs have been linked to an illness called Sick Building Syndrome, which causes symptoms like eye irritation, infections, skin rashes, and asthma.

Atmospheric Particulate Matter

Particulates in the air are one of the most pervasive types of harmful atmospheric pollution. The most common source of particulate matter is combustion of fossil fuels. Particles under 10 micrometers in diameter can enter our lungs when we inhale and deposit themselves in our alveoli. High concentrations of particulate matter in the lungs have been linked to lung cancer, asthma, birth defects, and heart problems. Children are especially vulnerable to the deleterious effects of atmospheric particulate matter.


Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is another byproduct of fossil fuel combustion. It is an odorless, colorless gas that starves the brain of oxygen and can kill in high concentrations. You may be vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning if you live in a house with an old or faulty furnaces.


Asbestos is a material that was turned into commonly-used building materials like insulation and ceiling tiles in the mid-20th century. It was prized for its fire-resistant qualities. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos fibers in the air has been shown to cause mesothelioma, a kind of cancer. If you have a construction job that involves working extensively in buildings made before 1975, there is a chance that you will encounter asbestos at work.

Although there is no way to completely shield yourself and your family from the dangers of atmospheric pollution, you can try to minimize risk as much as possible. Especially vulnerable populations like children and construction workers should be particularly vigilant. Safety gear, like air filters and face masks, can reduce this danger considerably.

Images via 1 & 2                                       Emma Sturgis, the author of this post, is a freelance writer from Boston, MA.

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