Indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution can cause short term respiratory symptoms. It can also make asthma worse.

In the long term, indoor air pollution affects the lungs, heart and blood vessels. This can lead to stroke, heart attack and lung cancer.

If you have asthma, you’re more at risk from poor air quality indoors, especially if you spend a lot of time at home.

Indoor air pollutants

There are many sources of indoor air pollutants that can harm health.

Domestic appliances

When burned, fuels like coal, wood or gas can produce indoor air pollutants like:

  • carbon monoxide (CO)
  • nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • particulates

Domestic appliances that can burn these fuels include:

  • boilers
  • heaters
  • fires
  • stoves
  • ovens

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can also be a source of indoor air pollutants. These are found in:

  • personal care products
  • building materials
  • paint
  • carpets
  • laminate furniture
  • cleaning products
  • air freshener
  • polish

Cleaning and personal care products are not thought be to a significant health issue if:

  • homes are well ventilated
  • the products are used according to the manufacturers’ instructions

But, if they’re exposed some sensitive people may get:

  • irritated eyes, nose and throat
  • headaches
  • dizziness

Other indoor air pollutants

Other indoor air pollutants include:

  • tobacco smoke
  • second-hand smoke (SHS)
  • a naturally occurring radioactive gas called radon that comes from the ground as the earth decays – it can accumulate in buildings

Monitoring indoor air pollution

There are ways to test and monitor indoor air pollution.

You should install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. This will need to be tested regularly to make sure it’s working.

Radon testing is also available for your home.

How to reduce indoor air pollution


  • make sure any heaters, cookers and boilers are serviced regularly
  • make sure any new appliances are fitted properly with adequate ventilation
  • open windows to ventilate your home (be cautious when outdoor pollution levels are high)
  • use an extractor fan to ventilate kitchens and bathrooms


  • do not use open fires and wood burning stoves if you have an alternative source of heating available
  • do not use products with strong smells and chemicals – look for mild or unscented products
  • do not smoke indoors

Further information

Support to help people with the cost of living is available from the Scottish Government. This includes:

  • help with energy bills
  • advice on energy efficiency measures to help heat homes safely

Last updated:
02 February 2024

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