Director of Policy, British Lung Foundation
Do you know the facts about indoor air pollution? Alison Cook, Director of Policy at the British Lung Foundation, explains.
Outdoor air pollution is gaining ground as an urgent health issue, however indoor pollution is often overlooked. Breathing in any kind of air pollution has an impact on our health, especially for those living with a lung condition.
We spend roughly 90% of our time indoors so it’s important we take action to look after our lungs, even in our own homes, active or asleep.
Breathing in polluted air can make you feel short of breath or wheezy and has been linked to an increased risk of pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Pollution in your home can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
In some jobs, you might be exposed to much higher concentrations of certain air pollutants and more dangerous substances than you would find at home.
The quality of the air we breathe indoors depends on a number of factors including; the type of heating we have, how we cook food, the cleaning chemicals we use and what a house is made of. Tobacco smoke indoors remains the biggest threat, but there’s increasing evidence that other sources of pollution need to be taken just as seriously.
Some simple steps to improve air quality indoors
There are some simple steps you can take to improve air quality indoors. Keep your home well aired and watch out for condensation, which encourages mould and fungi to grow. To keep condensation at bay, use an extractor fan when cooking or showering, wipe down windowsills if damp and dry your washing outside if you can.
It’s also important to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, as low or high temperatures can affect breathing. The recommended temperature is 18 degrees.
Try to use liquid cleaners instead of sprays; certain products may cause respiratory irritation and symptoms if you have a long-term lung disease. Sprays get into the air, which means you can breathe them in more easily and they can get further down into your airways.
Your workplace can be affected by air pollution
Indoor air pollution is not just restricted to the home but can also be a problem in the workplace. In some jobs, you might be exposed to much higher concentrations of certain air pollutants and more dangerous substances than you would find at home.
You have the right to work in a place where the risks to your health and safety are properly controlled by your employer, so it’s important you raise any concerns.
A united effort for new policies in the Environmental Bill
While we can all do our bit, we need the government to publish ambitious policies in the Environment Bill that will look at all sources of air pollution to protect the nation’s health. We might need government action on the use of different fuels and chemicals indoors to make the air we breathe safe.