The Perils of Indoor Air Pollution and How To Combat It
Public Health England states that poor air quality is ‘the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK’, with long-term exposure leaving the population at risk of chronic conditions, respiratory diseases and even lung cancer. Unfortunately, air pollution isn’t limited to the outside world and there are a number of indoor air pollutants that can have an equally detrimental effect on our health.
From carbon monoxide (CO) emissions to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), there are many threats to the quality of our indoor air that can harm our health. We spend, on average, 90% of our time indoors either at home, work or school, so it’s vital that the issue of indoor air pollution is addressed and appropriate steps are taken to combat the negative impact it has.
Types of indoor air pollution
Indoor air pollution takes several forms, including emissions of carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PMs). These can come from any domestic appliance which burns a fuel containing carbon, such as boilers, heaters, fires, stoves or ovens.
Another major source of indoor air pollution is volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are easily converted into vapours or gases, increasing the risk of them being breathed into the lungs and causing ill effects. VOCs are released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal or natural gas, and they’re also found in many household consumer products, including paints, cleaning products, air fresheners and laminate furniture. Poor ventilation, the presence of damp or mould and some building materials can also increase the amount of air pollution within a building.
The risks and effects
Research shows that the level of VOCs indoors is two to five times higher than the level outdoors and breathing even low levels of these compounds over a long period of time can increase the severity of conditions such as asthma.
Short-term health effects of air pollution include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath and long-term effects can lead to serious health problems including stroke, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Young children, the elderly and anyone with an existing lung or respiratory condition (such as asthma), are particularly at risk to the effects of indoor air pollution.
How to combat indoor air pollution
A study into indoor pollution conducted by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians, calls for the government to do more to combat the ill effects by setting indoor air quality standards. Further suggestions include emissions labelling for household products and building materials and offering clearer information for the public about the risks indoor air pollution can pose.
There are also guidelines for individuals to follow in their home or office, such as not smoking indoors, regularly vacuuming to remove dust and ensuring there is sufficient ventilation when cooking or cleaning. Studies have also shown that adding plants and greenery can help reduce the amount of indoor pollution in your office or home. Plants and living walls absorb many gases from the air, including carbon dioxide and VOCs, as well as helping to regulate temperatures and improve sound insulation.
Whilst some of these areas can feel a little out of our control, business owners, specifiers and architects can plan for these elements when creating office spaces and homes. With adequate awareness, knowledge and willing our homes, offices and every day spaces can be designed and built with our health and wellness in mind.
We’re committed to creating greener, cleaner and healthier spaces for future generations through increased environmental education. To find out about our initiatives and the many benefits of installing a living wall, click here to request a consultation.