Is Indoor Air Quality Worse Than Outdoors?

When most people hear the phrase “poor air quality,” they probably imagine smoke-heavy skies and vehicle emissions. Although many of us look outside, it’s important to look inward — right into the cozy refuge that is your home. Many factors can lead to poor indoor air quality, putting you and your family at risk.

As people spend more time indoors, indoor air quality (or IAQ) has become more important than ever. But is indoor air quality worse than outdoors? Should you be concerned that the air inside your home is unsafe? You might be surprised to learn the answer to these questions.

The Truth About Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality

Believe it or not, poor indoor air quality levels can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. This is a big deal — especially when you consider all the airborne pollutants that lurk beyond our windows.

Many people think vacuuming the carpet and scrubbing the floors make their house safe and clean. However, it’s plain to see that many small, unnoticeable particles are making themselves at home in your living spaces. You typically cannot see or smell them, but various harmful airborne pollutants could be in your home without you noticing.

But why is indoor air quality worse than outdoors? Why should you be concerned? We’ll answer these questions in more detail below.

Why Is Indoor Air Pollution Worse Than Outdoors?

As homeowners, we want our indoor environments to be comfortable, clean, and above all else, safe. Unfortunately, many sources of pollution could be wreaking havoc inside your house, including those linked to building materials, allergies, and cleaning products.

The World Health Organization, among many other noteworthy groups, has warned against the potential dangers of poor indoor air quality. Many airborne pollutants can lead to serious health effects, many of which can take a toll on your day-to-day lifestyle.

Now that you know indoor air quality is worse than outdoors, it’s important to know what you could potentially be exposed to. Let’s discuss some of the most common airborne contaminants.

A living room with a fireplace.

Building Materials

Various building materials and furnishings can constrain harmful substances such as formaldehyde and asbestos. Some building materials that may utilize asbestos include insulation and roofing shingles.

If you want to know why indoor air pollution is worse than outdoor pollution, take a look throughout your home. Various materials could contribute to poor indoor air quality — and you might not even be aware of it.

A girl on a carpet next to a dog.


When considering the potential air pollutants inside your home, you might first think of allergens. Of course, this is completely understandable. There could be many allergens swimming in your air, including dust mites, pollen, mold, mildew, and pet dander.

One reason why indoor air quality is worse than outdoors is the variety of allergens that could be inside your home. Having these pollutants indoors can lead to various health problems if you have allergies or asthma. Fortunately, many products, such as air filters and air purifiers, can help trap and remove some of these allergens.

A person wearing gloves and cleaning the floor.

Volatile Organic Compounds 

If you want to know why indoor air pollution is worse than outdoors, turn next to your everyday household products. Some common items — including cleaning products, paints, hairspray, and air fresheners — can contribute to poor air quality because they contain volatile organic compounds (or VOCs).

Volatile organic compounds can contribute to indoor and outdoor air pollution; however, the levels of these pollutants can be considerably higher indoors.

A magnifying glass with "Radon" written on it.


Radon is a radioactive natural gas that is often produced when radium decays in the ground. This harmful gas can seep into a house via cracks and holes, where it can potentially cause a wide range of health effects. Common symptoms of radon exposure can include eye irritation, shortness of breath, and a consistent cough. However, it’s also important to note that radon is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer. Many health organizations warn against the dangers of this naturally-occurring gas.

Unfortunately, radon doesn’t have a color or smell, so it can be incredibly difficult to detect. You can purchase a radon test kit to test levels inside your home, or you can get in touch with a professional radon inspector for assistance.

A carbon monoxide alarm.

Carbon Monoxide

Another harmful, odorless gas that can be found inside homes is carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is produced by burning fossil fuels; think gas heaters, ovens, fireplaces, and stoves.

When learning why indoor air pollution is worse than outdoor pollution, it’s crucial to look at all the possibilities. Although carbon monoxide is one of the more rare pollutants, it’s important to keep in mind how harmful this particular gas can be. Carbon monoxide poisoning is known to cause headaches, chest pain, weakness, and trouble breathing, among many other health problems. In the worst cases, carbon monoxide exposure can even lead to death.

Prioritize Your Home’s Peace of Mind With a Safety Check

Since most airborne contaminants are easy to overlook, it can be difficult to know the level of indoor air pollutants you’re dealing with. Now that you know that indoor air quality is worse than indoors, you might be ready to prioritize your family’s health and safety. Fortunately, Environment Masters is here to provide you with much-needed peace of mind!

As a reputable HVAC company, we provide a wide range of heating services in Jackson, MS, and the surrounding communities. When cooler weather rolls around and furnaces are necessary to keep warm, our professional technicians are proud to offer System Safety Checks for local residents. Our Fall Safety Sweeps include:

  • Ten-point safety and operational check of your furnace
  • Complete drain clean and check
  • Indoor air quality system check (including a carbon monoxide test)
  • Survey of your current smoke detection system
  • Five-point safety and operation water heater check

Our Safety Checks are $89 for the first system and $79 for each additional system. Signing up for an inspection is quick and easy. Simply get in touch with us!

If you’ve been spending more time indoors, it’s important to make sure your home is as comfortable and safe as possible. Our Jackson heating experts will ensure these needs are met. Contact us today to set up your Safety Check!

A man sneezing into a tissue with a small dog in his lap.

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