Everyone knows about outdoor air pollution and the harmful effects of particulate matter from such things as car exhausts, but the dangers from indoor air pollution can be equally harmful, especially for households with children.
It is estimated that 24,000 people die prematurely each year in the UK as a result of air pollution. The estimated costs of poor health as a result of air pollution to the NHS have been identified as £20 billion a year.
Concern over the effects of modern day pollution, primarily from industrial and road transport sources, has led to the introduction of the EU Directive on Air Quality.
A good quality of indoor air is crucial to our health, we spend a significant amount of time indoors so it is imperative that we don't expose ourselves to harmful chemicals. Air pollution can cause both short term and long term effects on health, especially with young children as they are still developing and may not have a strong immune system.
Even short-term exposure to toxins can be dangerous. Many pollutants cause symptoms like those of a cold. Employees notice irritated eyes and respiratory tracts, headaches, and fatigue. When they leave work, they feel better.
Some pollutants only show effects after the damage has been done. Indoor pollutants can cause heart disease, cancer and other potentially fatal illness.
Health issues aside, poor air quality in your facility can lead to issues with productivity, workplace satisfaction, and attendance. Which, as we know, can directly impact your organisation’s operations and ultimately, the bottom line.
While people may react very differently to indoor air pollutants, employers have a duty to provide a safe, non harmful environment for their employees. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns.
Here, Rebecca McLean, Marketing & Product Director at EnviroVent, looks at improving air quality in the home for the benefit of all, but particularly young children.
“Young children are more vulnerable to poor indoor air quality. Indoor pollutants in the home include Particulate Matter (PM) from wood burning stoves, chemicals contained within furnishings, cleaning products and paints (known as Volatile Organic Compounds). When a home has a lack of effective ventilation, poor indoor air quality can lead to headaches, dizziness, coughing and sneezing, difficulties breathing, dry skin, throat and eyes. It may be more difficult to spot these early symptoms in children, especially babies. However, over the long term air pollution can be extremely harmful to health, leading to breathing issues, allergies, asthma and chronic pulmonary disease.
It is common for people to report one or more of the following symptoms:
People generally notice their symptoms after several hours at work and feel better after they have left the building or when they have been away from the building for a weekend or a vacation.
Research by medical professionals in the US has found that air pollution has a greater impact on pregnancy and on the health of the baby, and even goes as far as to compare it to smoking during pregnancy. The developing lungs of the unborn baby are susceptible to the effects of air pollutants and may result in health issues when born. If you notice that you do not feel well when you stay inside your house, you should have your home tested for air pollutants and overall air quality.
When a baby has been born prematurely, it can be more at risk of respiratory issues, as its lungs are under-developed. Air pollutants can therefore be dangerous to them so indoor air quality is even more important. Polluted air can also cause some respiratory diseases such as croup, which can again be harmful to young children and babies.
If children are exposed to air containing toxins and poor ventilation over a long period of time, they can develop respiratory diseases such as asthma or bronchitis. *. Bronchitis is a respiratory virus that can be caused by poor indoor air quality. Children who contract it are more likely to suffer from asthma when they grow up*.
One of the signs of poor ventilation is the appearance of condensation on your windows. This moisture and dampness can lead to mould growth. Not only is mould unsightly and damaging to the fabric of a building, it has also been found to aggravate breathing and skin conditions, such as asthma and eczema, and so be harmful to health. The impact of these pollutants on health is significant and this is why the air quality inside a house should be checked.
Poor indoor air quality is a growing problem in UK homes and a recent survey revealed that 20% of householders reported that they experienced condensation and mould growth in the home.
When you enter your home, make sure you remove your shoes to avoid bringing in chemicals, pollen, dirt and dust indoors. If you have a porch it is a good idea to leave your outdoor footwear here or just inside the front door if you don't have a porch.
Check what ingredients are contained within cleaning products before you buy them. One of the most common VOCs comes from limonene, an ingredient that is used to give candles and cleaning products their scent. In its unaltered state, limonene is considered safe, however when it comes into contact with the air one in every two molecules mutate into formaldehyde, which can cause tiredness, headaches, allergic reactions, respiratory problems and other illnesses. Householders can prevent this by reducing their use of scented candles and similar items, such as wax melts or oil burners and sourcing cleaning fluids which are environmentally-friendly. These will work in exactly the same way as regular cleaning products, but without causing damage to a person’s health. An effective whole-house ventilation system will reduce the concentration of VOC levels, with many positive health benefits.
Avoid drying washing indoors, especially on the radiators as this can cause humidity levels to rise due to excess moisture, which is what causes condensation to form. If there is no other alternative and laundry has to be dried inside, it should be done in a well ventilated room, like the bathroom, with the door closed.
Leave space between furniture and the wall. Condensation and mould love tight spots where there is poor circulation of air, so it’s best to leave around two inches of space between the furniture and walls to enable the air to circulate around the property. Try to ensure that the wardrobes are placed against internal walls in the bedroom, which will be warmer than external walls and less likely to cause damp and mould problems.
Test the quality of air in your home. You can do this by purchasing an air quality monitor, such as a Foobot or uHOO which will give you real-time alerts of air pollution levels in your home. If you are concerned about indoor air quality, particularly if you have children, then it’s a good idea to have a ventilation survey. An experienced ventilation company, such as Envirovent, can help by providing a no-obligation, free home survey and advice on the best approach to improve the air quality within your home.
Many families find that the best way to reduce pollutants in the home and improve air quality is to invest in an effective ventilation system. A whole house ventilation systems like Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) system can be housed discretely in the loft or hallway and can improve the air quality across all the rooms in the house. By introducing fresh, filtered air into a home, humidity is lowered and condensation and mould cannot form. It also dilutes the levels of air pollutants in the home.
It may come as a surprise to find that the air inside the home can be even more polluted than that outdoors. It is important to ensure that good ventilation is in place. Many households suffer with issues caused by condensation and mould during the colder months, yet may not realise the harm this is doing to the health of both children and adults.
There are a wide range of health related conditions that can arise from constant exposure to poor indoor air quality. If you or your family are experiencing this, then having your home’s indoor air quality tested could be the start of solving the problem and improving your and your children’s health.
To book a free survey call 0345 27 27 807 to speak to a ventilation specialist in your local area.
*Source: Indoor air pollutants affecting child health - US Study by American College of Medical Toxicology
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