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The winter months are ideal for spreading germs. However, standing in the line of fire of someone’s cough isn’t the only thing making you sick. Several indoor pollutants cause respiratory problems and illnesses, some of which you may not know exist. Here are 10 of the most common contaminants you could have creeping in your house this winter.

1. Dust Mites

When was the last time you dusted the house or washed your bedding? Dust mites are prevalent in 84% of U.S. households, with 20 million Americans suffering from allergies and asthma.

These little critters thrive in warm spaces and feed on dead skin cells. Your nasal inflammatory reaction comes from breathing in dust comprised of dust mite urine, feces and decay.

Keep humidity levels low, remove and thoroughly clean carpeting, upholstery and drapes, and wash your bedding weekly to rid your home of dust mites.

2. Pet Dander

Pet dander increases your risk of hay fever — such as sneezing, a runny nose or congestion, itchy and watery eyes, and difficulty breathing. Some people even get skin rashes when exposed to pet dander.

Avoid letting your pet sleep with you in bed, and keep them off the sofa. Also, vacuum floors regularly, keep pet-free zones throughout the house and brush them daily to reduce the amount of dander floating around.

3. Mold 

While there are over 100,000 types of mold, some may be more common in your house than others — and more toxic. If your HVAC system leaks or your pipes burst under freezing temperatures, it is critical to look for mold.

You might experience frequent sneezing, itchy eyes and other allergic symptoms. Severe reactions include trouble breathing and a compromised immune system.

4. Radon

Radon is odorless and invisible, occurring naturally outside. While you can breathe it in small amounts, it becomes increasingly dangerous when it creeps into your home.

This gas usually occurs in basements or crawl spaces, the floors, walls, foundation cracks, and around pipes and wires. Inhaling radon could eventually lead to lung cancer after long-term exposure.

5. Carbon Monoxide

Many people light the fireplace, turn on the stove or furnace, or sit in their cars with the heat on to get warm in the winter. However, the fumes put you at serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure are often flu-like, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and chest pain. Inhaling too much can also cause fainting or death.

6. Particulate Matter

Particulate matter (PM2.5) comes from cooking appliances, candles, fireplaces, heaters, cleaning products, mold and outdoor pollutants. Particles up to 10 micrometers in diameter are most dangerous, causing health conditions like asthma and lung disease.

It can also lead to upper respiratory inflammation and infections, increasing your chance of developing the flu or pneumonia.

Always check products for hazardous chemicals, regularly clean air filters and avoid combustion appliances whenever possible to decrease PM2.5.

7. Asbestos

According to The Mesothelioma Center, one in four Americans don’t know whether their home has asbestos. If your house was built before 1980, there could be asbestos in the floor tiles, furnaces and ducts, seals, fireplace, roofing materials, insulation, walls and ceilings, and outdated appliances.

Asbestos is a carcinogen, leading to lung, ovarian and larynx cancer, as well as mesothelioma. Even if you don’t believe your home has it, it’s best to call a professional to make a clear assessment.

8. Methane

Although you may prefer your gas stovetop, it likely emits harmful methane gas and nitrogen oxide. Studies show the annual output of all gas stoves in U.S. households equates to the emissions from 500,000 cars on the road.

Methane causes respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and asthma. Some even wind up in the emergency room after long periods of exposure.

9. Lead

Like asbestos, homes before 1978 often contained lead paint. Today, 29.4% of U.S. households — or 34.6 million houses — still have some lead.

Even small amounts of lead are highly toxic, resulting in reproductive issues, impaired development, brain and nervous system damage, blood disease, cardiovascular and kidney disease, and weakened immunity. The effects are long-lasting and dangerous for overall health, especially in children.

10. Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in paint, sealants, varnishes, aerosols, cleaning supplies and cosmetics.

Exposure may lead to eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, liver and kidney damage, poor coordination and allergic reactions. Cracking windows open for ventilation and identifying ingredients in products with VOCs — such as formaldehyde — helps remove these vapors from your home.

Keep A Contaminant-Free Home For Better Health

Staying healthy this winter starts with keeping a clean, pollutant-free home. Look for hidden contaminants making you sick and take the necessary steps to rid your home of them.


Author Bio

Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.



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