Increased awareness of the importance of air quality
“Covid-19 has sharpened the focus worldwide on the importance that air quality has for our health.”
With regulations continuing to make our buildings more airtight and better insulated than ever, the importance of purpose provided ventilation continues to grow.
Modern regulations are delivering more comfortable and energy efficient buildings; however, the increased airtightness means that higher concentrations of contaminants which are readily produced from a range of processes can build up indoors.
UK citizens spend approximately 90% of their time indoors,¹ with 16 hours a day on average spent at home.² This means that individual risk of exposure to indoor air pollutants is many times that of outdoor air pollution and this is exacerbated by the fact that indoor air can be many times more polluted than outdoor air.³
Our purpose responds to these global trends
Poor indoor air quality occurs when pollutants build up in our buildings. Although some sources are obvious, others are not quite so immediately recognisable. Detailed below are a range of sources of pollutants:
- Smoking – There are over 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, many of which are toxic or carcinogenic
- Heating – Open solid fuel appliances produce particulate matter formed of microscopic particles of dust and dirt in the air
- Gas cookers – Produce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide
- Drying clothes indoors and steam from showers and baths cause condensation and mould
- Cleaning products, aerosols and sprays, plus paints, solvents and varnishes – Produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as acetone, xylene and formaldehyde
- Off-gassing from furniture, carpets and certain wall coverings
- Burning incense and candles
- In offices, sources such as photocopying and printing
UK citizens spend approximately 90% of their time indoors with 16 hours a day on average spent at home
The links between poor IAQ (indoor air quality) and negative health outcomes have become clear over recent years and are now widely accepted. Poor IAQ is reported to have an annual cost to the UK of over 204,000 healthy life years, with:
of those lost to cardiovascular diseases
to asthma and allergy
to lung cancer4
According to the Royal College of Physicians, indoor air pollutants cause thousands of deaths per year in the UK, with associated healthcare costs in the order of “tens of millions of pounds”.5
Covid-19 has sharpened the focus worldwide on the importance that air quality has for our health. Covid-19 spreads by airborne transmission and is far more likely to be spread indoors than outdoors. One of the most important ways to mitigate against transmission is therefore to ensure that we ventilate our buildings correctly6 and we are starting to see increased regulatory requirements around pathogen mitigation.
- European Commission, Joint Research Centre – Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (2003), Report No. 23, Ventilation, Good Indoor Air Quality and Rational Use of Energy.
- BEAMA – My Health My Home (2015), Indoor Air Quality Survey, YouGov. The survey was conducted from a representative sample of 2,000 UK adults.
- US Environmental Protection Agency (1987), The total exposure assessment methodology (TEAM) study: Summary.
- National Institute for Health and Welfare (2013), Efficient reduction of indoor exposures. Health benefits from optimizing ventilation, filtration and indoor source controls.
- Royal College of Physicians (2016), Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution. Report of a working party.
- Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic (hse.gov.uk).