Poor indoor air quality in UK homes is at a scale and magnitude that needs immediate national-level attention and action, concluded a recent report with contributions from the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the BRE and the ARCC network.
The report was published following a workshop event (Better homes, better air, better health) where built environment and medical professionals came together 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.
Professor Stephen Holgate, Special Advisor on Air Quality to the Royal College of Physicians said ‘There is a growing body of evidence* that suggests volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are also being produced by synthetic building and furnishing materials. At the same time, insulating homes without adequate ventilation can 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”.’
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.
Professor Jonathan Grigg, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said ‘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.’
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.
Dr Peter Bonfield, CEO of BRE said ‘It is important to think carefully about air quality when considering energy efficiency improvements in housing and other buildings, so that the health and wellbeing, especially those more vulnerable across our society are properly protected and informed to avoid the potential negative health imparts of poor air quality’.
The event also marked the launch of a working party formed by the Adaptation and Resilience in the Context of Change (ARCC) network, Building Research Establishment (BRE), the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (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.
* material and data from the report: Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution, 2016,
Royal College of Physicians