Avoiding Air Pollutants Indoors

Woman cleaning counter to remove bacteria.

When you’re living with a chronic lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis, COPD, or bronchiectasis, certain particles in the air, whether natural or artificial, may trigger a worsening of symptoms. In this article, we’ll review the different types of air pollutants that can irritate your lungs. Next, we’ll share tips on how to avoid these triggers, so you can manage your lung condition with more confidence and ease. 

So, what are some common air pollutants? Air pollution can be split into two categories: indoor air pollution and outdoor air pollution. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re going to focus on how to avoid air pollutants indoors.

Graphic icon of cleaning products. Common Air Pollutants Found Indoors[1]

  • Cleaning products – chlorine bleach, detergent, dishwasher liquid, oven cleaners, shower sprays, etc. 
  • Aerosol sprays – hair spray, cosmetic sprays, air fresheners, and any household product that contains VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which emits harmful gasses into the air and react with other gases to form different types of air pollution.[2] 

Graphic icon of aerosol spray canOther examples of indoor VOCs include:

    • Pesticides
    • Paint and paint strippers
    • Caulks and sealants
    • Adhesives
    • Permanent markers
  • Graphic icon of chimney with smokeWood Smoke Chimney – Wood smoke releases a combination of gases, small particles, and harmful toxins into the air we breathe, which in turn, can irritate our lungs, eyes, and nose.[3]

It’s important to note that these types of indoor air pollutants can be harmful to any population, regardless of whether or not you have a preexisting lung condition; however, these irritants can cause exacerbated symptoms in patients with COPD or bronchiectasis, including shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, lung inflammation and/or infection. All of which make it harder to breathe on your own naturally and can be disruptive to your quality of life and airway clearance therapy treatments. 

Tips for Preventing In-Home Air Pollution

Working to improve your home’s air quality takes some adjusting, as it may involve making small changes to your normal routine. For instance, you might decide to swap out household chemicals that contain VOCs with more natural cleaning products that won’t release particles into the air that could irritate your lungs. 

How to Make the Switch: Common household products, such as lemons, vinegar, or baking soda, for example, are effective cleaning agents you can use to clean your kitchen or bathroom areas. In addition, more stores are beginning to carry brands that provide quality cleaning products that no longer contain harmful gases or chemicals. 

Clean pillow cases to prevent dust.Here Are Some Other Tips:

  • Another way to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution is to invest in a quality air purifier for your home. Air purifiers are becoming widely popular, and for good reason, too. They create a filtration system that traps tiny particles in the air, so you start breathing cleaner air. 
  • You may also choose to remove any rugs from your living spaces. Why? Carpets are known to trap dust particles from the home, and every time you step on one, you release those tiny particles back into the air, where they’re easier to breathe in.
  • Washing your sheets, bedroom blankets, and pillow cases weekly can also help you reduce the dust that likes to hang around your home! 

Mold and dampness in your home can also irritate the lungs.[4] Mold is typically caused by leaks or areas of the home that receive less ventilation, such as a basement. But you can also experience mold on carpets, bathroom showers that don’t receive adequate exhaust flow, or even if you forget to regularly clean your humidifier or air conditioner. 

What’s the best defense against indoor mold? According to the American Lung Association, it’s recommended that you try to keep your home’s humidity level below 50%. They also recommend performing thorough cleanings of spaces where mold will normally grow (i.e., bathroom shower, underneath the refrigerator, basement area, etc.).[5] 

There’s a lot more we could discuss about indoor air pollution, but the important thing to remember is the first step to preventing in-home air pollution is asking everyone in your household to do their part.  This is especially true if your loved one is living with bronchiectasis or COPD. Weekly dusting, though necessary, can sometimes move tiny particles into the air, which can irritate the person’s lungs. Therefore, you might decide to assign this task to someone else in the home or have the person wear a disposable dust mask while he or she cleans.

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[1] American Lung Association. “Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals.” Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/cleaning-supplies-household-chem

[2] American Lung Association. “Volatile Organic Compounds.” Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/volatile-organic-compounds

[3] United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Wood Smoke and Your Health.” Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/burnwise/wood-smoke-and-your-health

[4] American Lung Association. “Mold and Dampness.” Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/mold-and-dampness

[5] American Lung Association. “Mold and Dampness.” Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/mold-and-dampness