INDOOR AIR QUALITY UK

 

 

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IAQ UK is an independent organisation with the aim of 'raising the agenda of indoor air quality within the home and workplace'

About Us

OBJECTIVES

ABOUT US

A FEW WORDS FROM US




Rachel Carson

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There is no doubt, no question any longer that the extent and depth of contamination in the air we breathe is serious

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IAQ UK is an independent organisation with the aim of 'raising the agenda of indoor air quality within the home and workplace'.

 

The objectives are achieved by working with the various agents and organisations in promoting indoor air quality and ensuring the information is accessible to enable individuals to make a choice about their environment.

Rachel Carson, an American marine biologist, started to raise the environmental debate and had expressed concerns regarding the use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) as an insecticide sprayed onto crops to kill mosquitoes.


Carson wrote a book in 1962 called Silent Spring  which meticulously described how DDT entered the food chain and accumulated in the fatty tissues of animals, including human beings, causing cancer and genetic damage. Carson ardently wrote that DDT and other pesticides had irrevocably harmed birds and animals and had contaminated the entire world food supply.


The book’s title was meant to evoke a spring season in which no bird songs could be heard, because they had all vanished as a result of pesticide abuse. Although Carson is concerned with our external environment, Silent Spring is an invigorating read; drawing parallels to the work of IAQUK.


Carson’s thought provoking illustration is acclaimed as generating an elevated perceived consciousness within the environmental movement.

Carson, R. (2002). ‘Silent Spring’ Publisher: Mariner Books. ISBN-10: 0618249060.

Indoor air quality is not a new concept; however, despite our knowledge regarding health concerns, this concept has not been transferred into the workplace from a practical application. Nor has the understanding and awareness to implement IAQ been explored within the UK. The perception of risk from indoor air contaminants and the willingness to improve indoor air quality is contrasted by the lack of policy, direction and information within the public sphere. IAQUK therefore explore the reason for the gap between knowledge and practical application, appraising understanding, resources and government policy. The number of chemicals that are manufactured and introduced into our indoor environment is growing. Whilst developing airtight buildings, sealing a building for energy efficiency, we have failed to address the balance of the occupant’s health. 


During the oil crisis in the 1970s more attention was given to the introduction of energy saving measures in buildings (Hammond and Stapleton, 1991) This resulted in energy efficient buildings, with mechanical systems controlling air flow and comfort factors (heat, humidity), initiating a reduction in the amount of outdoor air being supplied into buildings.

 

Outdoor air quality remained a focus in the UK over the last 2 decades, but during this period changing conditions within indoor environments have tended to reduce ventilation and increase the opportunity for accumulation of undesirable levels of indoor air pollutants.  The first reports of an imprecise and unrecognised general sickness related to the occupancy of buildings were investigated 40 years ago in North America and Scandinavia.    The UK has incurred a similar sick building effect and as the carbon footprint demands for buildings to become more efficient will ensure that the problem associated with poor indoor air quality will continue to become exasperated.

 

Most individuals spend about 90% of their time indoors and are therefore exposed to the indoor environment to a much greater extent than to the outdoors.   Information obtained from laboratory and epidemiological studies suggest that indoor air pollutants are an important cause of avoidable morbidity and mortality in the UK expectancy (Department of Health, 2001), (Brunekreef and Holgate, 2002).  Contaminants in the indoor environment are more than 1,000 times more likely to be inhaled than outdoor air (Levin, 2007) and can be up to 10 times more polluted than outside air (US EPA, 2001).   The potential effects of indoor air pollution include unpleasant smells, sensitization and asthmatic reactions, related to biological aerosols in the indoor air and the fatal consequences of exposure to pathogenic organisms or chemicals.

As standards for external air quality improves, it would therefore seem evident that equivalent standards of health for exposure to outdoor pollutants should be applied to indoor air quality whereby often concentrations of outdoor air are in greater quantities. There is considerable research to demonstrate that indoor air is more pollutant than outdoor air, thus the reason why we are seeing an increase in respiratory diseases, sensitivities, asthma (Department of Health, 1998) (Seppanen, Fisk, Mendell, 1999), and even cognitive conditions, including stress and migraines (Zvolensky, Eifert and Lejuez, 2001).


In 2004, a study showed that around 15% of people in England have asthma, and the UK has the highest prevalence of asthma symptoms in the whole world (Howieson, 2005).  ‘Many of these illnesses can be linked with poor indoor air quality’ Howieson (2005).   Despite such research directed to improving the quality of outdoor air, the UK only recognised the requirements for indoor air quality guidelines in 1991, by the House of Commons Select Committee, which, in its report on indoor pollution recommended that the Government develop guidelines and codes of practice for indoor air quality in buildings, which specifically identify exposure limits for an extended list of pollutants. The Department of Health Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollutants  (COMEAP) released guidelines for manufacturers, architects and engineers involved with building design and services, to assist in the process of reducing poor air quality (Department of Health, 2004).     However, there are currently no regulations on the quality of indoor air in the UK. Indoor air quality was excluded from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Defra Air Quality Strategy (2007).   Building Regulations F (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2006) consolidate energy efficiency, requiring further ventilation designs to be incorporated within airtight buildings.  This has been an encouraging step.  They are also perceived as ‘performance criteria’ which contain some guidelines but these are not mandatory.

 

The Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 (HMSO, 1992) cover a basic requirement for sufficient ventilation and thermal comfort, governing a minimum working temperature of 16 °C or. 13 °C if physical effort is required. There are no maximum working temperatures.     The Health & Safety Executive have recently developed guidance for thermal comfort and heat stress in the workplace (HSE, 2008), but offer no further guidance for indoor air quality standards.  The British Occupational Hygiene Society, the occupational hygiene standards group discusses health hazards associated with dust, chemicals and biological compounds with regards to Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (HMSO, 2002) occupational exposure limits. There are numerous organisations which are in charge of different aspects of indoor air quality, of which the sources of information are disparate.  There is a clear need to address indoor air quality more seriously and effectively, which should include a coordinated approach by the various organisations. A regulatory framework is also absent which could provide guidelines for a range of parameters using best practice standards from International and European research.  Managing indoor air quality is challenging because it crosses many disciplinary boundaries, from architecture, and building design to occupational health and human behaviour; and covers many types of variables relating to buildings, including their layout and technology, the organisations which occupy them, the management styles and the people themselves.

 

Indoor air quality is not just a building structure and materials issue; how occupiers interact with their environment and the activities they conduct within their surrounding has value. Within the growing movement of organic food and drink, individuals can choose whether they wish to reduce chemicals contained in foodstuff they consume; they have limited choice regarding the air that is breathed. Since the smoking ban, social awareness of air quality and how we can affect others with our actions through the unacceptability of second-hand smoke has increased. When a chemical has a pleasant smell, the perception of risk can be skewed. Until the 19th century natural ingredients were being used to create scents within products, particularly perfumes. In 1921, Chanel launched a jasmine perfume, developed by perfumer Ernest Beaux, who used for the first time aliphatic aldehydes to create an artificial scent, resulting in Chanel No. 5. Many of the chemicals in perfumes are the same chemicals that are in cigarette smoke, such as benzene, formaldehyde and toluene; merely the influence that fragrances have a pleasant aroma ensures tolerance from exposed occupants; thus creating a challenge with regards to the risk perception and social acceptance of improving indoor air quality. With the increasing use of scent marketing and personal fragrance application, acceptability of such pollutants creates a significant concern for our generation. Accumulated with the lack of research dedicated to the effects of perfume and scent as a contributor to our indoor air environment.  Despite health being an important issue to people’s lives, studies have shown that people remain unaware and often apathetic of the health risks posed from indoor air (Harrison, 2002). This could be argued understandable when comparing priorities of high risk activities and hazards.  However the effects of indoor air quality is indispensable in the economic impact in the workplace, which is the justification of IAQUK.

 

The air we breathe is critical to our health, comfort and productivity.
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IAQUK, 4 Brean House, 19 Montpelier, Weston-super-Mare,

Somerset, BS23 2RJ

 

Established 2009