A new report from the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCP and the RCPCH), suggests air pollution contributes to around 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK alone. The study was developed to raise awareness of the link between poor air quality and ill health, arguing that indoor air concerns are being overlooked.
Comment attributed to Becky Batham, specialist chemistry laboratory manager, Energy and Waste Services, ESG
“The problem of contaminated air in buildings isn’t confined to just the UK. As Europeans are estimated to spend around 90 per cent of their lives inside buildings, indoor air quality is a major influencer on public health across the whole continent. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that pollution costs EU economies over £1 trillion every year and accounts for nearly 3 million deaths annually.
“The new report from the RCP has shed light on the importance of air quality testing in 2016. Building owners and those responsible for occupational health should take heed of the study, making sure to regularly conduct air quality tests in and around their premises.
“As a provider of indoor and outdoor air quality tests, our teams will often come across instances where there are unnoticed objects and tell-tale signs in buildings that prove to be sources of poor air quality. Some common examples include damp carpets, ceilings and old pieces of furniture. These can give rise to volatile and potentially hazardous contaminants such as BTEX, formaldehyde, aromatics, naphthalene and styrene from the breakdown of plastics.
“Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also hazardous if ingested via the air. These can be emitted by a wide array of products commonly used in buildings, including air fresheners, paints, lacquers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, and some building materials.
In addition, ventilation is also important for maintaining good air quality and office occupants in areas that lack opening windows are more prone to developing Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) as well as other heart and lung illnesses.
“SBS causes a variety of symptoms which should be looked out for. These include unexplained instances of dry or itchy skin, eyes or throat as well as headaches, lethargy, irritability, or poor concentration.
“By keeping an eye out for the warning signs of poor air quality and controlling occupant exposure to products with high levels of VOCs, those responsible for safety in buildings across Europe can actively protect against the dangers of pollution.”