Reducing Your Exposure to Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor Air Quality Group
Building Decarbonization, Community Air Protection Program , Composite Wood Products Airborne Toxic Control Measure, Consumer Products Program, Environmental Tobacco Smoke Identified as a Toxic Air Contaminant, Exposure, Indoor Air, People at Risk, Prescribed Burning, Agricultural Burning, Residential Woodsmoke Reduction, Wildfires
We spend most of our time indoors where air pollutant levels are often higher than outdoors. Chemicals released from consumer products, gas appliances, building materials, smoking, and furniture can all contribute to this problem. Exposure to indoor air pollutants can result in a range of health effects, such as eye and throat irritation, asthma and other respiratory diseases and cancer. The most effective way to protect your family and yourself from indoor air pollution is to prevent or minimize the release of pollutants indoors in the first place. Ventilation with outdoor air can be very effective, too.
Specific Measures You Can Take to Reduce Your Indoor Air Pollution Exposures
Purchase and use safe building materials and furnishings:
- When purchasing building materials or furnishings made with composite wood such as particleboard or plywood, look for a label that California Phase II Compliant, or TSCA Title VI Compliant.
- When purchasing carpet, cushion and adhesive products, look for the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label Plus logo.
- Consider purchasing cleaning products that are safer for human health and the environment. For more information on how to choose safer products, check SaferChoice and GreenSeal.
- Use formaldehyde-free products such as solid wood, gypsum board, stainless steel, adobe, bricks, and tile for construction or renovation when possible.
- Air out new carpet or furniture before bringing them indoors for as long as possible.
Remove or reduce other sources of indoor pollution:
- Restrict cigarette smoking, vaping, and marijuana smoking to outdoor areas away from doors and windows.
- Minimize the use of air fresheners and other strongly scented products.
- Avoid the use of cleaning products and fragrances that have a pine or citrus scent because these can react with ozone to form particles and formaldehyde.
- Minimize the use of products that make surfaces stain-and water-repellent or non-stick, since they may contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Examples of PFAS-containing products include stain/water repellents for carpets and fabrics, some countertop sealers, some waxes for floors and tile, and non-stick cook pans. More information on PFAS.
- Use high-emitting products (e.g., paint, glue, caulk, candles and incense) outdoors when possible, or increase ventilation when using products or engaging in activities indoors that may generate pollutants. To do so, you can open windows and doors when the weather permits or turn on local exhaust fans.
- Reduce or restrict the use of consumer products that produce ozone, such as residential laundry water treatment systems, ozone fruit and vegetable washers, and/or ozone hair and facial tools.
Use combustion appliances safely:
- If your kitchen range hood vents to the outdoors, always turn on range hoods when cooking, and set it to the highest fan speed when possible.
- Use an electric or gas stove and heater instead of a wood stove or fireplace. If you do burn wood, use “seasoned” (dry) wood, and make sure that your fireplace or woodstove drafts properly.
- Never use gas stoves to heat the house as this can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide and other air pollutants.
- Never use hibachis, charcoal grills, unvented space heaters, or portable generators indoors. These should all always be used outdoors at a distance from the home so that emissions do not enter open windows or doorways.
- Have gas heaters and stoves checked annually by a professional before the heating season to assure that they are functioning properly and vented to the outdoors.
Provide adequate ventilation and filtration:
- Use a medium- or high-efficiency filter in your central forced air system to help remove airborne particles, if your HVAC can accept such a filter -- preferably those rated as MERV13 or higher.
- If your home does not have a central system, using one or more high-efficiency portable air cleaners that have been certified by CARB as not emitting ozone. More information on:
Prevent ambient air pollution from getting indoors:
- Close windows and doors when the outdoor air pollutant level is high, e.g., during a wildfire episode, and use indoor air cleaners if possible. Visit AirNow for the current and forecasted air quality levels for your city.
- Protect yourself from wildfire smoke
Additional CARB Resources
- Air Cleaner Information for Consumers
- Air Cleaning Devices for the Home
- List of CARB-Certified Air Cleaning Devices
- Protecting Yourself from Wildfire Smoke
- Ozone Generating Consumer Products