We spend a large proportion of our lives indoors at home, work and school or in shops and restaurants, breathing air that has been polluted by a wide range of substances from natural and man-made sources. Air pollution, both indoors and out, is the largest environmental risk to public health, producing both short term and long-term illness and potentially reducing life expectancy.
What is the difference between health and well-being?
- Eye, nose and throat complaints
- Mental fatigue
What causes poor indoor air quality?
- Biological contamination: fungi and bacteria caused by condensation and damp materials, dust mites and pollen from outdoor air
- Biological contamination from humans and animals: human-derived microbes, for example, from sneezing and coughing; droppings and detritus from birds, rodents and cockroaches
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from building components:plywood and fibreboard, insulation materials, vinyl and plastic wall andfloor coverings, carpets and upholstered furniture, adhesives
- VOCs, Ozone (O3) and particles from industrial and household products: paints, solvents, waxes and polishes, air fresheners, drain cleaners, printers and copiers, perfumes, soaps, writing and drawing materials, paper products, cooked food, tobacco and vaping products
- Biological contamination and VOCs from HVAC systems: contaminated liners and filters, dirty drain pans, lubricants, refrigerants, leaking boilers and furnaces
- Traffic and industrial pollutants from outdoors: particles from vehicle exhausts and factories, and gaseous pollution such as nitrous oxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2)
- Radon: this radioactive gas occurs naturally in rocks and seeps through the ground into buildings where it can accumulate and increase the risk of lung cancer
The impact of poor air quality on health
- Particulate matter: respiratory illnesses, including asthma and bronchitis in the short term and heart disease and lung disease in the long term, and also anxiety and hypertensive disorders.
- Ozone: asthma, irritation of eyes, nose and airways and damage to airways from long-term exposure
- VOCs such as formaldehyde: eye, nose and throat irritation, headache and allergic skin reaction, cancer
- Carbon monoxide: headache, dizziness, nausea and death
- NO2: inflammation of the airways, respiratory illness
How to improve air quality
The benefits of a well building
- Improvements to occupant well-being, satisfaction and productivity
- Reductions in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and indoor air pollutants
- Strong financial returns for the companies owning or occupying the buildings