Guidance published on how to reduce indoor air pollution

The public body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has published new draft guidance on how to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution.

The document is aimed at members of the public as well as local authorities, public health professionals and people working in construction. It draws on previous studies that have linked indoor air pollution from cookers, damp, cleaning products and fires to irritation of the lungs and asthma.

The guidance says people should ensure rooms are well ventilated, by opening windows or using extractor fans, when cooking, drying clothes inside, using household sprays or solvents and paints.

The new guidance comes after NICE published a quality standard on outdoor air pollution earlier this year.

Architects and builders are also being asked to adopt a ‘whole-building’ approach to heating and ventilation in their designs in order to minimise exposure to particulate matter, particularly when designing homes for lower-income households.

This includes situating windows away from sources of outdoor air pollution and using building materials that emit low levels of formaldehyde and VOCs.

Professor Gill Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE said: ‘Evidence shows that homes with poor air quality are linked to an increase in risk of health problems. Poor ventilation leads to a build-up of pollutants which can exacerbate illnesses such as asthma.

‘Councils are in a good position to raise awareness among the general public. It’s important that local authority departments from social housing to providers of social care work together to identify, prevent and improve poor indoor air quality.’

The dangers of indoor air pollution have been highlighted in several recent studies.

Global Action Plan asked the National Air Quality Testing Services (NAQTS) to conduct four experiments with four families in different UK locations in April and May 2019.

Each study monitored the level of ultrafine air pollution particles over a 24-hour period inside and outside the four families’ properties, which found that ultrafine particle pollution levels were on average 3.5 times higher inside than outside, peaking at 560 times outdoor air pollution.

Researchers said this is due to a combination of indoor activities such as cooking or burning wood alongside outdoor pollution from transport, which travels inside, creating a build-up of pollution inside the home, with pollution peaks taking longer than outdoors to disperse.

Ultrafine particles have the potential to have greater health impacts than PM10 or PM2.5 pollutants because they are smaller and evidence suggests they can be more easily absorbed into the body.

Another study said UK households are experiencing dangerous levels of indoor air pollution due to ‘significant’ levels of formaldehyde, a human carcinogen that is found in adhesives in wood products such as MDF, carpets, furniture, paints and varnishes.

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