AIRE: Atmospheric Information Resource for Educators and students

Quick Facts About Indoor Air

This long winter has had the AIRE team thinking about the amount of time we spend indoors, and the air quality there.

– These days, most people spend the vast majority of their time indoors (especially in the winter!). There is therefore high potential for exposure to pollutants indoors, i.e., at home or in the workplace.

– While what we think of as commonplace outdoor pollutants (e.g. car exhaust) may be less prevalent indoors than outdoors, other chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be present at much higher concentrations indoors. Indoor VOCs may come from many sources including cleaning products, air fresheners, and new furniture. They can harmful to health on their own, or serve as precursors for the formation of aerosol particles.

– You have probably heard about secondhand smoke, which is the exposure of non-smokers by being around smokers. Thirdhand smoke can also be a problem. This occurs when nicotine, tar, and other harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke deposit on indoor surfaces like walls and carpets. People can be directly exposed to these chemicals through contact the surface, or reactions with gases like ozone may cause them to re-enter the gas phase.

We are looking forward to the warmer weather and more time in the fresh air outdoors!

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