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How does mould impact your health and your indoor air quality?

Everyone knows mould isn’t good for you, but not many people know just how much it can impact your health and indoor air quality.

We conducted a survey investigating how mould affects UK homeowners and over 65% of people said they experienced mould or condensation in their homes. 68.9% also said that they think indoor air quality is equally as important to outdoor air – yet we still hear very little about it in media or policies.

Peter Howarth, Professor of Allergy and Respiratory medicine at Southampton University says:

“I have had many patients come to me with serious respiratory conditions due to pollutants within the home. With respect to asthma, mould allergy is recognised to be associated with worse asthma and poorer asthma control.  The presence of moulds within the home is a reflection of poor ventilation and increased humidity. Homes with mould are also likely to have higher house dust mite allergen levels and this may worsen both respiratory and skin conditions. The lack of adequate ventilation within the home can also be associated with the build-up of non-allergenic noxious fumes which are detrimental to health.”

“MoldBlogger.com” is a website solely dedicated to the fight against toxic mould and the consequences of mould exposure. The website is run by Jonathan Wold and Brian and Krystle Reeves, who all have had first-hand experiences with mould and therefore decided to start the website. Brian, an aspiring architect says he often sees the damage that mould can do to buildings not properly constructed and wants more to be done about it. The website features blog posts on topics such as “the effects of breathing mould”, “checking your house for mould” and “the importance of clean air to prevent mould”.

In their post on the effects of breathing mould, the Mold Blog states that “mould produces allergens, irritants and sometimes even toxic substances” and that “a prolonged exposure to high levels of indoor dampness can reduce lung function, possibly causing bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, particularly in children, the elderly and those already diagnosed with other medical conditions” In the post they also mention leading health entrepreneur, Sara Davenport, who writes in her book, Reboot Your Health “when your energy is low, mould exposure can weaken your body and change the way you think and feel. With ‘push me pull you’ tactics, mould spores overstimulate your immune system at the same time as blocking its ability to work properly, causing all kinds of physical and mental problems in the body.”

It is clearly no secret that breathing in mould spores not only makes sick people sicker, but it also can make otherwise healthy people sick. It promotes the development of long-term conditions like asthma and according to the World Health Organization, a large proportion of the 300 million childhood asthma cases worldwide can be attributed to indoor mould exposure.

As we spend 90% of our time indoors and 16 hours a day in our homes, a mould-free home should be of high importance to both individuals and policymakers at all times.

How do I prevent my home from mould?

The key to reducing mould in your home is to prevent it from dampness and condensation. One of the main reasons homes become damp is due to them being poorly ventilated. Without ventilating your home adequately, moisture builds up. Another way to reduce moisture in your home is to make sure you dry your clothes outside or in a room that is properly ventilated.

See more tips for a healthy home here.

Visit the Mold Blog here.

Useful Resources: European Lung Foundation on Indoor Air Pollution

Almost everyone knows that outdoor pollution can damage their health, but not many people realise that indoor air pollution can affect them as well.  

The European Lung Foundation (ELF) is the public voice of the European Respiratory Society (ERS), which is a non-profit medical organisation with over 8,000 members in more than 100 countries. The ELF is dedicated to lung health throughout Europe and connects leading European medical experts together in order to raise awareness and provide patient information on respiratory disease.

The ELF has produced a number of ‘lung factsheets’ which have been reviewed by the ERS, all discussing different risk factors which may impact the lungs. Indoor air pollution is considered one of these risk factors due to a number of reasons.

Poor indoor air quality has been linked to several lung diseases such as asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution can cause a healthy person to become ill with one of these diseases, or it can trigger and worsen the symptoms of those already diagnosed.

Indoor air pollution can be caused by a number of activities and can originate from a number of places. Poor ventilation, open fires, building materials and furniture, cleaning products and air pollution that comes inside from the outdoors, are just a few.

A dry throat or a cough are symptoms that can be felt after a short time (days or weeks) of exposure to indoor air pollution, whereas the long-term effects which can lead to for example lung cancer may not appear for several years. The ELF Lung Factsheet has a table which goes into further detail on exactly what source and pollutant causes what symptoms and how they affect the lungs as well as how to tackle them. See example below:

Full table available in the ELF Factsheet. 

In their factsheet they have also provided 9 general recommendations to help you control indoor air pollution and lung disease:

  1. Do not allow smoking indoors.
  2. Ensure your home is well ventilated. Air your house for 5–10 minutes several times a day, especially during and after cooking, and after taking a shower.
  3. Maintain gas appliances.
  4. Where there are coal, wood or open fires, make sure that chimneys are cleaned and looked after. Burn only dry and untreated wood. Do not burn refuse or packaging as it can lead to the formation of toxic substances.
  5. Prevent water leaks and reduce moisture levels.
  6. If you live in a high radon area (houses built on granite, in areas such as Sweden and in the west of the UK), get advice on testing for radon.
  7. Use building materials and furniture with low emissions. Look for products and materials that carry the European “Ecolabel” (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel) or any other approved natural levels to prove that products are environmentally sound and low in pollutants and emissions.
  8. Install alarms for smoke and carbon monoxide.
  9. Take care when using chemicals in the household; as detergents, cleaning agents, air fresheners etc. release chemicals into the air. Always ventilate well after use.

Click here to see the full factsheet.

 

 

COPD and Indoor Air Pollution – A vicious circle?

The relation between indoor air pollution and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide, yet most people have never heard of it. COPD causes inflammation in the lungs, irreversibly damaging lung-tissue and narrowing the airways. The disease accounted for 2.93 million deaths in 2016 alone [1].

Some of the main signs of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, swelling in ankles, feet or legs and lack of energy [2], all of which may make patients discouraged to move and through this are unable to leave their home as much as a regular person would.

COPD is a confirmed public health crisis in Europe and affects one in ten adults over 45[3]. The two main causes of the disease are thought to be tobacco and air pollution. Despite having such a large impact on human lives, there is very little information on COPD and therefore it continues to influence patients, their families and healthcare systems.

In 2014, the European Union adopted the Clean Air Package with norms to regulate the pollutants emitted by industrial activities, the level of traffic and emissions and the dangerous chemicals which come from agriculture. Although all important contributors to air pollution and COPD, these are not the only things polluting the air we breathe.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a major contributing factor to our health and wellbeing, yet very little attention is being paid towards it. The air inside can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air [4] and more than 900 chemicals, particles and biological materials have been detected in indoor air [5]. Indoor air pollution is caused by poor indoor equipment such as ventilation and heating as well as poor building materials such as paints, carpets and surface and finishing materials. Furthermore, the occupant’s behaviour can influence the IAQ through cleaning products, cooking or smoking indoors.

Indoor air pollution can both cause and trigger symptoms of COPD. Most people know that breathing polluted air while outside is harmful, especially if you are living with a lung condition such as asthma or COPD [6]. The symptoms of COPD may cause patients to stay at home more than the average person, and without any knowledge about IAQ, they could unknowingly be exposing themselves to an environment that will make their disease and symptoms even worse.

The EFA is approaching the EU institutions to include IAQ in policies that have a threshold in the issue such as the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which did not even mention the links and benefits of energy consumption reduction and health.

BEAMA and the My Health My Home campaign are also working on policy change within the UK through the APPG for Healthy Homes and Buildings and will be publishing a white paper on the importance of IAQ in relation to health.

Read more about our work in parliament here.
Read Health Europa’s article on COPD here.

References:

[1] GBD 2016 Mortality Collaborators. (2016). Global, regional, and national age-sex specific mortality for 264 causes of death, 1980–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet. 390 (10100), P1151-1210.

[2] Mayo Clinic. (2018). COPD. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/copd/symptoms-causes/syc-20353679

[3] Isabel Proaño Gómez. (2018). Cross-cutting solutions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Available: https://www.healtheuropa.eu/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease/87522/

[4] United States Environmental Protection Agency. Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. Available: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality.

[5] Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks SCHER. (2007). Opinion on risk assessment on indoor air quality. European Commission. 

[6] British Lung Foundation. (2018). About indoor air pollution. Available: https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/your-home-and-your-lungs/about-indoor-air-pollution

How is your indoor environment affecting your mental health?

Housing is more than just a roof over your head. How is your indoor environment impacting your mental health?

Having a home is an essential part of living a full life. To be able to stay focused on our families, jobs and health we need a place that is safe, secure and stable to live in. Mind UK published the report “Brick by Brick – A review of mental health and housing” which explores the connection between mental health and housing in further detail.

The report found that there are some indications that housing design can have a preventative effect and reduce the likelihood that residents will experience poor mental health. People living in newer and better-maintained buildings tend to have better mental health and they are also less prone to using health services.

One in three people in the UK live in poor quality housing, and the stress caused by the poor physical condition of a property has a large negative impact on mental health. There is particularly strong evidence for the negative impact of damp and cold. These housing issues can contribute to poor physical health which in turn can negatively impact mental health even further.

The primary causes of poor indoor air quality are condensation and mould, which comes as a result of a damp home. There are many factors which can contribute to this, such as poor insulation, inadequate heating and ventilation as well as the lifestyle of the occupant.

The challenge for the householder is to strike the balance between insulation, heating and ventilation. This can be particularly difficult for those in rented accommodation as the householder isn’t always in charge of these features, which is one of the reasons Mind UK is calling on policy changes to assure that the country has higher quality homes in order to keep its population healthy and safe.

The report states that “having a safe and secure home is an intrinsic part of people’s mental wellbeing and the absence of a place to feel truly at home can have a devastating impact on anyone’s mental health. If you have a mental problem, this impact is often amplified.”

The evidence presented in this report makes it clear that good quality housing is critical to good mental health. Without preventative measures to keep people out of homes that are causing or worsening mental health problems, we’ll only see the issue grow.

To read the full report press here.

Air Quality a major concern among voters.

A new survey by Opinium shows that 40% of UK adults would be more likely to vote for a party which promised to tackle air pollution.

Air pollution is a pressing problem in today’s society and last week’s news about a young girl’s fatal asthma attack potentially being linked to the country’s poor air quality shows just how big of an issue it really is.

A survey by Opinium suggests that 71% of UK adults are either somewhat or very concerned about air pollution for their own health, and the health of other people[1]. A survey by Censuswide for BEAMA also shows that 68.9% of UK adults believe that indoor air quality is equally as important to outdoor air quality[2].

According to a government report published in 2018, poor air quality has been classified as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK[3]. However, with growing concerns about the illegal levels of air pollution in the country, Opinium’s survey finds that nearly half (47%) of UK adults believe the government is not doing enough to tackle air pollution.

Outdoor air is a major threat to public health in the UK, but what many people don’t know is that indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air and contain up to 900 potentially dangerous chemicals, particles and biological materials [4].

57% of UK adults believe that it should be the government’s responsibility to tackle outdoor air pollution[5] and 73.4% of UK adults believe that the government should make indoor air quality a government priority as well [6].

“The government’s plans for reducing air quality have been widely criticised and deemed inadequate by the High Court. The public clearly believe national government should play a bigger role – in fact the biggest role – in introducing measures to reduce air pollution. The government should be helping to establish a larger network of low emission zones across England.” Says Eamonn Ives, researcher at Bright Blue.

As we spend 90% of our time indoors and around 16 hours a day in our homes[7], it is important that light is not only shed on the countries issues with outdoor air pollution but also its indoor environments. Poor indoor air quality has a reported annual cost to the UK of over 204,000 healthy life years, with 45% of those lost to cardiovascular diseases, 23% lost to asthma and allergy and 15% to lung cancer [8]. A new Scottish study has also shown links in air pollution spikes and hospital admissions [9] further providing evidence for the air pollution issues this country is facing.

Opinium’s survey shows that 40% of UK adults would be more likely to vote for a party which promised to tackle air pollution. The costs to the NHS and the UKs public health due to outdoor and indoor air pollution is greater than ever and can no longer be ignored.

Want to find out more about how you can improve your indoor air quality? Visit our page on “tips & advice for a healthy home”.


[1] Will Date. (2018). Poll shows air quality a ‘major concern’ among voters. Available: https://www.airqualitynews.com/2018/07/09/poll-shows-air-quality-a-major-concern-among-voters/. Last accessed 12 July 2018.
[2] BEAMA – My Health My Home. (2017). Indoor Air Pollution Survey. Censuswide. The survey was conducted from a representative sample of 1000 UK householders. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
[3] DEFRA (2018) Clean Air Strategy http://www.gov.uk/government/publications
[4] European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate, Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER). Opinion on risk assessment on indoor air quality. 2007.
[5] Will Date. (2018). Poll shows air quality a ‘major concern’ among voters. Available: https://www.airqualitynews.com/2018/07/09/poll-shows-air-quality-a-major-concern-among-voters/. Last accessed 12 July 2018.
[6] BEAMA – My Health My Home. (2017). Indoor Air Pollution Survey. Censuswide. The survey was conducted from a representative sample of 1000 UK householders. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
[7] European Commission, Joint Research Centre – Institute for Health and Consumer Protection. Report No. 23. Ventilation, Good Indoor Air Quality and Rational Use of Energy. 2003.
[8] National Institute for Health and Welfare. Efficient reduction of indoor exposures. Health benefits from optimizing ventilation, filtration and indoor source controls. 2013
[9] https://www.dundee.ac.uk/news/2018/air-pollution-levels-linked-to-spikes-in-hospital-and-gp-visits.php

Illegal levels of air pollution linked to child’s death”

A nine-year-old girl’s fatal asthma attack has been linked to illegally high levels of air pollution.

A nine-year-old girl has died from a fatal asthma attack and this is the first time an individual death has been linked to air pollution. One of the UKs leading experts, Stephen Holgate says there was a “striking association” between the girl’s emergency hospital admissions and recorded spikes in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM10s. Spikes in air pollution coincided with all but one of Ella’s hospital admissions and her fatal asthma attack came after one of the “worst air pollution episodes in her locality”.

With so much information now available about the health impacts of air pollution and the link to thousands of deaths in the UK, it doesn’t make any sense that no direct link to an individual death has been made earlier, says human rights lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn who is acting on behalf of the family.

The girl lived with her family near the South Circular Road and Lewisham High Street in south London, which is a heavily trafficked and polluted area. The girl’s mother said she had been treated by five different hospitals before her death, but no one had ever told her about the potential link to air pollution.

UK citizens spend on average 90% of their time indoors and around 16 hours a day in their homes. Indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air, and as the girl lived in an area with high levels of outdoor air pollution this means her home, a place one would view as safe, may have been even worse for her health.

According to a government report published in 2018, poor air quality has been classified as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK – yet, public information on the matter is still lacking.

In his report, Professor Holgate described exposure to air pollutants as a “key driver” of the girl’s disease and that “unlawful levels of air pollution contributed to the cause and seriousness of the girl’s asthma in a way that greatly compromised her quality of life and was causative of her fatal asthma attack”.

If she would have known more about the health effects of air pollution, she would have looked at moving to a different area and making sure her home was safe for her daughter to be in, says the girl’s mother.

Full article here.

 

 

 

The Business Case for Health and Wellbeing in Green Building

The World Green Building Council recently published a report on the “Business Case for Health and Wellbeing in Green Building”

The World Green Building Council recently published a report on the “Business Case for Health and Wellbeing in Green Building” featuring case studies demonstrating the major benefits which can be made to both people and the planet just by changing up an office environment.

Buildings are the place where people work, live, play, heal and learn and they have a direct impact on our health and wellbeing. What many people don’t know, is that buildings also have the largest potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions which would contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The report by The World Green Building Council therefore explores the dual opportunity to do right by the planet and people by showcasing revolutionary green building projects which are paving the way to a resource efficient, healthy and productive future.

The report features case studies from 11 different green building projects in business environments from all over the globe. Each case study features a review of the green features that were implemented into the building and a study on the occupant satisfaction post instalment. The green features are divided into categories such as Indoor Air Quality, Acoustics, Lighting and Materials and the top three benefits found overall were:

  • Reductions in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.
  • Improvements to occupant wellbeing, satisfaction and productivity.
  • Strong financial returns for the companies owning or occupying these buildings.

Indoor air quality was a “green feature” discussed in almost every case study. Ventilation, VOC friendly building materials and CO2 sensors were all things featured in the green build improvements and for example in the Sherwin-Williams office refurbishment in San Salvador, El Salvador a 64% reduction in allergy problems and a 68% reduction in respiratory problems was reported post refurbishment.

The results from the 11 case study projects in this report make a great case for the enormous benefits which can be made from advances in the green building world, driven by clear evidence of economic as well as environmental and social benefit.

Read the full report here.

Indoor Air Quality Guidance for London-based Offices, Restaurants & Shops

Envirotec creates Indoor Air Quality Guide for London-based businesses.

Congestion in cities is a largely discussed topic due to the inconvenience and delays it causes people. While the frustration may be the main thing debated, congestion causes another issue far more dangerous but not nearly as obvious – pollution.

According to a recent research carried out by the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, every part of the capital exceeds acceptable global pollution levels of PM2.5, which is a highly toxic air particle known to worsen heart and lung function. The latest Public Health England study attributes the annual costs of air pollution to the NHS as £157 million.

While the outdoor air quality of the capital is a major issue, what many people don’t know is that indoor air quality can be between two and five times worse than outdoor air. There are many different sources of indoor air pollution and especially in working, learning and social environments they can affect many people at once.

Envirotec have created a guide for London-based offices, restaurants and shops which provides information and tips on how to assure that the indoor air quality in these environments are kept to a maximum. It discusses the importance of indoor air quality to both employees and customers, the different sources of pollution as well as the difference between natural and mechanical ventilation and why opening a window in a city with already severely polluted outdoor air isn’t going to successfully fix the indoor air.

Read the full guide here.

My Health My Home Backs Clean Air Day 2018

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My Health My Home is raising awareness of indoor air pollution this Clean Air Day.

Yesterday marked this year’s Clean Air Day – a national awareness day to encourage the public to find out more about ambient and indoor air pollution and to share information on how to make air cleaner and healthier for everyone; both inside and outside the home.

In aid of the day, My Health My Home created a number of resources to raise awareness of the significant health impacts that are associated with poor indoor air quality, including an infographic detailing 5 quick and easy steps that anyone can make to improve the indoor air in their home (which can be viewed here). On social media, we ran a Thunderclap Campaign spreading a message on Indoor Air Quality with a social reach of over 150,000 people. We also created a Clean Air Day toolkit for our ventilation group members with infographics, GIFs and mini-infographics featuring key messaging on IAQ for them to share on their social media platforms.

Poor indoor air quality, or indoor air pollution, occurs when there is a build up of pollutants in the home to the extent that it affects the occupant’s health and comfort. Brits spend around 90% of our time indoors and approximately 16 hours a day in our homes. As homes are becoming more air tight due to higher energy efficiency standards, there is a greater chance that pollutants will accumulate and create a higher risk of indoor air pollution.

Adequate ventilation is a key factor in improving the air quality of UK homes and My Health My Home recognises that for a change to happen, action on a higher level is needed.

Share our ‘Every 6 minutes’ graphic on social media and tweet us your support today @MyHealthMyHome because #IndoorAirMatters this #CleanAirDay.

To keep up to date with our future campaigns, follow us on Twitter @MyHealthMyHome