here are many different kinds of pollution inside our homes, from particulate matter — microscopic particles of dust and dirt in the air — to gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides or sulphur dioxide.
Over recent decades, the increased use of synthetic building materials in modern houses, and our use of pesticides and household cleaners has led to many more chemicals being prevalent in our homes.
In addition, the push for more energy-efficient homes — better for the environment and residents’ bank balances — has had a negative impact on indoor air quality. As buildings become more airtight and have less ventilation, pollutants have nowhere to go.
Airborne chemicals, for example, are found in everyday products and materials including mattresses, household cleaners, candles, carpets, furniture and paint. In enclosed spaces, like our homes or offices, these emitted gases accumulate and can pollute our air.
Airborne chemicals can cause short-term problems like headaches, inflammation of the eyes, nose and throat, and flare-ups of chest infections, as well as contributing to the development of more long-term conditions like asthma.
Another common air pollutant is mould. Exposure to mould spores can have direct adverse effects on our health, ranging from common irritations and allergic reactions to asthma attacks or an increased risk of long-term lung damage.
According to a study by doctors from the University of Manchester, there is a strong connection between mould exposure in infants and the development of asthma by age three. Only maternal smoking has a stronger link with asthma. Over time, pollution can have more serious implications including the onset of cardiovascular and respiratory conditions and other known health risks.
These include impaired cognition, gene changes which can cause cancer, and other serious health problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, type II diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Children are most at risk, according to a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians. The report says: “From conception through to early adulthood, organs such as the lung and brain continue to grow and develop. This makes children and young people particularly vulnerable to the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution.
“It remains of utmost importance for children’s health to reduce the exposure to and the adverse effects of outdoor air pollution, but little attention has been given to pollutant exposures indoors.”