It’s no secret that air pollution has increased since the Industrial Age began more than a century ago. But did you know that indoor air pollutants can cause at least as many health risks as outdoor air pollution? Indoor air pollutants such as chemicals, mold spores, and carbon monoxide can cause myriad health problems, and some can be fatal. The good news is that there are ways to detect indoor air pollutants. There are also effective methods of preventing these pollutants from contaminating indoor air, as well as ways to get rid of air toxins once they’ve been introduced into your home.

How to test your home for indoor pollutants

There are several means of testing for indoor pollutants. Which is the proper testing method to use typically depends on the contaminating substance. Carbon monoxide, radon, mold, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) each has its own proper method of testing.

Carbon monoxide

Often called the ‘silent killer,’ carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. It is an extremely dangerous contaminant that must be aired out of a home immediately if detected. Carbon monoxide test kits are available for purchase for minimal cost. Carbon monoxide detecting alarms also can be purchased at hardware or home improvement stores. These sound an alarm if carbon monoxide is detected in a home reaching a dangerous level. It’s a good idea for every homeowner to purchase, at a minimum, one carbon monoxide detector. Even better, purchase one for each level of your home.


Radon also is impossible to detect without a radon testing kit or a professional who tests homes for radon and other dangerous substances. Radon test kits can be found online or at various hardware and home improvements stores. The test involves placing the detector in the home for as little as one or two days or up to 3 months. It’s important to note that home testing kits only detect radon on a short-term basis. Because radon levels can vary depending on the time of year, or even from day to day, hiring a professional to detect radon may be a better idea.


Mold testing kits also can be purchased online or in hardware or home improvement stores. Many of these kits are capable not only of detecting mold, but also in identifying molds. However, rather than testing for mold yourself, it’s often a better solution to hire a professional. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends sending samples of mold to professional mold testing companies for accuracy.


Volatile organic compounds are chemicals and organic compounds that evaporate easily, causing buildup of dangerous substances in the air. The list of VOCs is long, including most cleaning products, pesticides, and even many paints and varnishes. There are a number of inexpensive USB sensors that can be plugged into the computer in order to detect levels of VOCs within a given area. These sensors display a graph on a computer monitor with a light that indicates if air quality is good, fair, or poor.

How to improve your home’s air quality

There are a number of steps you can take to improve the quality of your home’s indoor air quality.

Air filters

There are many different types of air filters available on the market today, ranging in size, price, and ability to remove pollutants. Air filters can help eliminate pollutants by working to purify air.

HEPA vacuums

A vacuum with a HEPA filter is a better idea than just a regular vacuum because it not only cleans the floors, but helps to clean the air as well.

Organic cleaning products

Whenever possible, you should use natural cleaning products rather than those that contain dangerous chemicals, especially if you have small children and/or pets.

Air quality systems

Home air quality systems are capable of filtering out airborne pollutants, eliminating these contaminants and purifying indoor air. Whole home air quality systems typically are easy to clean and require little maintenance. The benefits of a home air quality system are many, as they keep toxins from being released into the air, building up, and causing serious effects such as headaches, dizziness, memory loss, abdominal cramping, and even death.

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