Indoor Air Quality is about more than wood-burners
Airtopia congratulates Defra for including in its Clean Air Strategy the little known but increasingly important issue of indoor air quality.
The more we learn about the health impacts of indoor air pollution, the more imperative it becomes to educate the public and take action. Like Airtopia, Defra has committed to addressing this issue which causes respiratory, allergy and heart disease and is estimated to result in 9,000 deaths a year in the U.K.
The Clean Air Strategy focuses specifically on two pollutants: particulate matter (PM) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs).
The first, particulate matter (pm) emitted from domestic burning, was the subject of much of the media coverage of the Clean Air Strategy. PM pollution is associated with serious health issues including miscarriage, intellectual development delays, lung disease and dementia. It deserves attention.
Disappointing, however, was that the other major IAQ initiative was almost entirely ignored.
Not everyone has a wood burner, but Defra intends to combat the danger that does occur in nearly every home: non-methane volatile organic compounds. This was perhaps among the most forward-looking proposals in the strategy document.
We spend 90% of our time indoors inhaling NMVOCs that are emitted by everyday items, from cleaning products and toiletries to soft furnishings and building materials. New build homes can be especially toxic for months after they become occupied.
Is it any wonder we have rising rates of asthma and allergies?
Defra is proposing that Government take action to limit - or help us limit for ourselves - the multitude of products that emit toxins into our indoor environment. This is a great step forward that Airtopia is eager to support. The Strategy includes:
- Government to explore developing voluntary labelling for NMVOC products
- Public engagement campaign on the dangers of NMVOC
- Consultation on changes to Building Regulations to improve ventilation in buildings.
The only surprising omission from this list is the desperate need for IAQ testing.
Defra should commit to a scheme to test the indoor air quality of homes throughout the U.K. so we can finally understand indoor air pollution. One way would be to work with the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government to replace EPCs with healthy home certificates that test for both energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
But because indoor air quality is determined by both the fabric of a building and occupants’ behaviour, the public should be encouraged to have their homes tested.
As Airtopia provides this service, this may seem a self-serving recommendation, but we are a social enterprise founded for no reason other than to help improve the health of the nation by educating the public about indoor air quality. We provide indoor air quality tests because they are the best means to help people understand what they need to change and how they can change it.
Again, we congratulate Defra for its holistic approach to combating air pollution. We hope this is just a beginning and look forward to working with Government to help ensure the air we breathe - inside and out - is healthy.