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Air Quality News webinar with Dyson tackles indoor air pollution

On Thursday 8th December, Air Quality News hosted a webinar with household name Dyson, a company that’s creating products at the forefront of air quality technology. Solicitor, consultant, author and host of our Air Quality News podcast, Stephen Cirell, spoke to experts about the difficulties of indoor air quality in the UK and possible solutions.  

Sitting on the panel was Professor Frank Kelly from Imperial College London who is on the Scientific Advisory Board at Dyson, alongside Frédéric Nicolas, who has been at the company for 20 years, working on products, such as fans and humidifiers. The pair have also worked together on a new air quality backpack which tracks real time air pollution.  

While we tend to focus more on outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution must not be ignored, as the US Environmental Protection Agency has found that indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. We spend 90% of our time indoors and take roughly 25,000 breaths a day, so it’s vital we find ways to eliminate indoor air pollution for our health.  

Frédéric said: ‘Air pollution and indoor air pollution is a very complex problem, as we have many different sources and it’s an invisible problem most of the time. So, we need to find something which helps us in identifying when this event of pollution happens.  

‘One aspect we can use is sensing apparatus, as this is a key part. We’ve worked with Frank and his team over many years to develop ambient air quality monitoring. I think we are learning and we are adapting the way we do sensing and the key thing is understanding our sensor to get more insight into what we capture.’  

Some of the biggest contributors to poor indoor air quality in our homes are mould, candles, log burners, cooking gases, cleaning products and even our pets. But as Frédéric and Frank both stressed, we inhabit many more indoor environments than our homes.

Educational facilities, workplaces and healthcare settings – to name a few – are areas we often find ourselves in, and areas where air quality can be an issue. These are also environments where good air quality is important for specific reasons: in educational facilities and workplaces, bad air quality can compromise our mental abilities and performance; in healthcare settings, it can of course be very damaging for sick people especially to breathe polluted air.

But the webinar found that there may be a slight disconnect here with the public’s perception. A poll conducted during the webinar found that the audience was most concerned about the air quality in their homes, with 38% voting for the category. Next came educational establishments at 17%, followed by healthcare facilities at 15%.

Frank Kelly highlighted how complicated the issue is, as we often forget how exposed we are to pollution while indoors. He said: ‘In your own car you’re indoors, you’re enclosed and usually feel pretty safe. But in fact, if you’re sitting in traffic and you don’t have your air recirculating and it’s just on intake, then you’re going to be exposed to an awful lot of pollution. Likewise on buses or even trains. And in fact, here in London, the underground system, it’s one of the most polluted environments that we have.’  

The panel agreed that we should be encouraged by technological breakthroughs that are actively improving the indoor air we breathe – particularly in the field of particulate matter sensing. But, as Frank Kelly stressed, any technological solution needs to come after human behavioural changes that are prioritising and enabling better indoor air quality. That, he said, is a solution in and of itself.   

So, what does indoor air pollution and purification in the UK look like in the next five years? According to our panel, awareness of indoor air quality will increase, while there could be a drive to replace gas appliances with electrical ones, which could ensure indoor air quality doesn’t deteriorate around mealtimes. Translating data on air quality to audiences could also enact the mass behavioural change needed to significantly clean up our air.  

You can view the webinar in full above or by clicking here.

You can also ask our experts a question here.

 

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