Health and environment
Health and environment

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Health and environment

5.5 Indoor pollutants

Before leaving air pollution you might reflect that many of us spend most of our time indoors where the air quality can differ from that outside the building.

Question 30

In what ways will the air be different inside a building?


The air is sometimes described as stale. Usually this just means that it is warm, but it can also mean that there are odours from bodies and a slightly elevated carbon dioxide content from people exhaling. If there are smokers, there will be tobacco fumes too. A condition called ‘sick building syndrome’ has also been described.

'Sick’ buildings suffer from air pollution of a particular kind. Ozone formed at ground level from traffic emissions can react with materials in furnishings, such as carpets, to produce toxic fumes of chemicals (for example formaldehyde and benzene) which are tissue irritants. These give rise to symptoms of nausea, headaches and dizziness. They also exacerbate any respiratory disorders.

The same is true of tobacco smoke as it too contains formaldehyde. Eyes and throats tend to be most irritated by tobacco smoke. A great deal has been written about passive smoking so you'll probably be aware that some of these noxious tobacco fumes are carcinogenic and can damage the lungs of non-smokers too.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has nearly 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus