Indoor Air Pollution: Health Impacts & Potential Solutions

APPG on Air Pollution – Indoor Air Pollution: Health Impacts & Potential Solutions – 6th September 2018 

Click here to view the slide pack


Geraint Davies welcomed attendees and thanked the panel for taking part. He said that 2 years the Royal College of Physicians had produced a ground-breaking report (Every Breath We Take) on outdoor air pollution, which greatly increased the visibility of the issue as one of public health, and highlighted the 40,000 deaths outdoor air pollution causes every year.

However, only around 10-30% of our time is spent outdoors, and thus the Royal College of Physicians are now working on a new report, due later this year, that focuses on the impact of indoor air pollution on the health of children.

He introduced the panel:

David Evans MBE, Founder, Airtopia

David Evans MBE is an economist, social entrepreneur and philanthropist. The founder of Grass Roots, he was the first person to be recognised with the single citation of ‘Services to Corporate Social Responsibility.’ Currently, Evans runs multiple social enterprises, including Airtopia, and has established The David Evans Grass Roots Foundation.

Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou, Principal Environmental Public Health Scientist, Indoor Environments, Public Health England

Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou is a Senior Environmental Scientist within the Air Pollution and Climate Change Group, Environmental Change Department in Public Health England (PHE). She is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at UCL, The Bartlett School Environment, Energy and Resources since January 2016. Her research interests include air pollution related effects on health and exposure assessment to air pollution, based on modelling and monitoring of outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution and ventilation, health impact assessments and development of environmental public health indicators.

Carla Jones, CEO, Allergy UK

Carla joined Allergy UK in May 2015 with ten years senior executive experience leading complex services in the third and public sectors and an earlier academic career lecturing on topics associated with early years development, the psycho-social aspects of health and evaluation of the impact of the government’s Sure Start initiatives.

Carla is leading the strategic growth of Allergy UK in line with its mission to raise the profile of allergy at all levels so that everyone affected by allergy will receive the best possible care and support

Dr. Derrick Crump, Consultant, Indoor Air Quality Consulting

Dr Derrick Crump has worked in government, education and private sector organisations undertaking consultancy, teaching and research concerned with the provision of good IAQ for over 35 years and published 180 papers in journals, conferences and books. Since leaving full time employment in academia in 2015 he is continuing to contribute to research, development of international standards and consultancy projects in this field both though his own limited company and by association with IEH Consulting (www.iehconsulting.co.uk).

 

David Evans MBE, Founder, Airtopia

David Evans MBE, founder of Airtopia, which sponsors the work of the APPG on Air Pollution, introduced the work of Airtopia and his background. Airtopia is a company that provides affordable indoor air quality tests for the public. David Evans said that his interest in air pollution stretched back to his childhood, growing up in a smog-covered Rotherhithe. He said that indoor air pollution in particular is a “self-inflicted wound”, and key to mitigating its effect is to better educate the public on the simple solutions available to reduce it – chiefly the importance of proper ventilation of a building.

Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou, Principal Environmental Public Health Scientist, Indoor Environments, Public Health England

Dr. Dimitroulopoulou began by stating how human health is determined by a variety of factors: from the our environment (both natural and built), our activities, our local area, our personal lifestyle and our physical individuality.

She listed the different factors affecting Indoor Air Quality:

  • Ambient air
  • Urban planning
  • Material and equipment in buildings
  • Occupant activities
  • Ventilation
  • Design and maintenance of buildings

And the sources of indoor air pollutants:

 

Dr. Dimitroulopoulou pointed out that air permeability had a key effect on indoor air quality, and that a side effect of the increasing drive to make our buildings more energy efficient has had the unintended consequence of keeping indoor air pollutants trapped in the home. She stressed the need for proper design, installation and use of ventilator systems to reduce the impact of indoor air pollution.

This drive for airtightness in buildings has the unintended effects of increasing condensation and mould, and causing buildings to overheat.

Short term effects of indoor air pollution:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue (VOCs)
  • Cognitive performance, productivity (CO2)
  • likelihood of effects depends on:
    • age
    • pre-existing medical conditions
    • individual sensitivity
    • repeated exposure or high level exposure

Long-term effects:

May show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure (traffic related pollutants, radon)

        • Respiratory diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD)
        • Heart disease (cardiovascular disease)
        • Cancer (lung cancer)

Dr. Dimitroulopoulou stressed the importance of tackling emissions at source, and applying high standards to ensure proper ventilation in buildings.

Public Health England participate in cross-government departments and with individual government departments to increase awareness of indoor air pollution.

Carla Jones, CEO, Allergy UK

Carla Jones began by pointing out how indoor air pollution was an issue that affected vulnerable groups in particular.

Indoor air pollutions affects our food, environment, air and water, and as a result our health. It tends to be invisible and undetectable but still can be dangerous.

40,000 deaths a year are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution, with more linked to exposure to indoor pollutants.

The cost to business and society of indoor air pollution is estimated be £20 billion per annum.

The UK is one of the top three countries in the world for the highest incidence of allergy. Allergic disease is associated with the air we breath, produces we use and food we eat.

21 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy (10 million with at least one)

50% of children in the UK suffer from some form of allergic disease.

Prevalence of allergic disease in the elderly is estimated to be around 5-10% (globally).

Respiratory allergies are caused by allergens in the environment such as pollens, house dust mites, pets and moulds. Levels of air pollutants and allergens tend to be higher indoors.

HealthVent Project estimated that indoor air pollution causes at least 1.5 – 2 million deaths a year worldwide.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children with 80% having allergic asthma – this is driven by airborne allergens- pollen, mould, dust mites, pet dander.

Exposure to mould and dampness in infancy increases risk of allergic rhinitis and asthma up to age 16 – particularly for those children who are non-allergic.

The population is aging – with percentage of adults over 65 projected to increase to 20% in 2020. Elderly people are likely to spend more time at home than average. Therefore indoor air pollution is particularly important for this group. They are more at risk from air pollution, even at low concentrates, because of their weaker immune systems.

There are 900 compounds harmful to health that have been detected in indoor air.

2,000,000 healthy life years are lost every year in the EU due to poor indoor air quality.

Potential solutions?

  • Improve public understanding of the impact of air pollution – e.g. VOCs in building materials, furniture, paints, cleaning products.
  • Introduce a new Indoor Air Quality Certificate for all buildings.
  • Educate those who take part in the design and build of homes and public buildings to improve their knowledge of tackling indoor air pollution.
  • Need for better recognition of health and wellbeing as a priority within the building regulations, particularly in regard to energy efficiency regulations.

Dr. Derrick Crump, Consultant, Indoor Air Quality Consulting

Dr. Crump’s presentation focused on source control as a potential solution.

The Building Regulations consider the need for ventilation in buildings but do not recognise source control.

Building Bulletin 101 provides guidance on ventilation and indoor air quality for schools.

Some European countries have indoor emission labelling schemes across Europe – some of which are voluntary. The UK is well behind of other Western countries on this issue.

A government backed labelling scheme – that minimises the risk of harmful products to human health – is long overdue. This should be based on best practice already applied elsewhere and should be sufficiently rigorous to discourage any ‘dumping’ of poor quality products on the UK market that fail to meet emission criteria in other countries.
Q&A and discussion with the audience followed. Some key points raised were:

  • Clean Air in London said that the standards used on publication of BB101 were out of date, and that the government must ensure that these are immediately reviewed. They are calling for a new standard for hospitals based on ISO standards.
  • Geraint Davies MP said that he was due to republish his Clean Air Bill and that it will include a substantial section on Indoor Air Quality, and invited Clean Air in London (and other any interested parties) to submit evidence to him. He said that there was clearly a need for some of the most harmful products to be banned outright.
  • Ruth Cadbury MP pointed out the issue of damp and mould being particularly severe in overcrowded homes in London. The Building Regulations were inconsistent on this, being weak on ventilation. Standards needed to be generalised, following the example of BB101, and made long-lasting to ensure they are kept up to date.
  • There was then a statement made from a member of the public who had experienced the effects of a formaldehyde contamination in their home – see here for the full statement.
  • Airtopia pointed out that they offer more affordable tests than the BRE standard
  • The CEO of Local Authority Building Control said that the current focus of ministers was on safety after the Grenfell disaster
  • Geraint Davies MP said that the Clean Air Bill should have a simple list of recommendations on Indoor Air Quality and urged attendees to contact his office with recommendations.
  • A UCL research urged for the need for more disclosure as to what building materials and furniture is made from. Allergy UK said that their “Seal of Approval” was their method of doing this.
  • Public Health England would be reviewing evidence of possible interventions from different sectors and will publish end of October.