Report calls for urgent action on indoor air pollution
Poor indoor air quality in UK homes is at a scale and magnitude that needs immediate national-level attention
Report from – Damien Carr
The Better homes, better air, better health report published with contributions from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPH), BRE and the Adaptation and Resilience in the Context of Change (ARCC) network, follows a workshop on 12 April, 2017.
The workshop brought together built environment and medical professionals to identify the key issues and challenges at the heart of the problem which contributes to approximately 40,000 fatalities in the UK every year.
A critical challenge identified in the report is the lack of robust, longitudinal, shared Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) profiles, associated health consequences and datasets across the national housing stock.
Recommendations include revising building regulations and reducing pollutant emissions from construction materials and home improvement products.
Last year’s Every breath we take report from the RCP, for example, suggests volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are being produced by synthetic building and furnishing materials. There was also the danger that insulating homes without adequate ventilation could trap a “potentially toxic cloud” coming from everyday household products such as air fresheners and cleaning products.
“We need to strike a balance between talking to technologists to develop solutions for those able to improve the situation within their own means and ensuring effort is going into "making normal better,” said Professor Stephen Holgate, Special Advisor on Air Quality to the Royal College of Physicians (RCPCH).
The report also calls for nationwide monitoring and pooling of data required for outdoor and indoor air pollution including encouraging widespread installation of real time sensors that detect indoor pollutants.
According to Professor Jonathan Grigg, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, air pollution is already considered one of the leading dangers to children’s health, and is known to effect people chronically over the life-course.
“It is therefore imperative that we strengthen the understanding of the relationship between indoor air pollution, exposure and health impacts and to be able to define the economic impact of poor indoor air quality and the health benefits of healthy homes,” he said.
Other recommendations included:
- incentivising and stimulating production of indoor air quality enhancing materials with energy efficiency benefits
- creating public health campaigns for greater public awareness that are easy to understand, educational and encourage behavioural change
- changes in market products including home insurance and mortgage products.
The workshop also marked the launch of a working party formed by the ARCC network BRE, RCP, and the RCPCH in addressing indoor air quality. The working party’s first steps will focus on the effect of indoor pollution on the health of babies and children.