New resource: What is Mesothelioma?

We have added a new source of information to our resources pages from Asbestos.com on Mesothelioma, a rare cancer which is caused by asbestos.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that lodge in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. The disease mostly affects older individuals who were exposed while working with asbestos products. The prognosis for malignant mesothelioma is poor, but treatment can provide relief from symptoms. Its most common symptoms include coughing, pain in the chest or abdomen and fluid around the lungs. Doctors often treat the cancer with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation or a combination of all three treatment options. While these treatments control tumour growth, researchers have not found a definitive cure for the cancer.

Asbestos is a carcinogen and was used in thousands of domestic, commercial and industrial products. Exposure occurs when microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne and occurs most commonly in a workplace, but also at home.

To read more about asbestos exposure and Mesothelioma, visit our resources page or go directly to their website. 

How polluted is the area you live in? and how does this affect my IAQ?

In a recent article by the Telegraph, figures published by DEFRA were analysed to see where the cleanest and dirtiest air in the UK could be found.

It is no secret that the air quality in the capital is of concern, but the article also found that most of the southern half of Britain, particularly the Midlands near major roads, also has air pollution levels above what is recommended by the World Health Organisation.

The specific air pollution which the article looked at was nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as well as so-called particulate matter (PM). PM particles are classified as carcinogenic and due to their small size, they can penetrate deep inside people’s lungs as well as enter their bloodstream.

The article features an interactive map in which you can look at the air pollution levels across the country. Unsurprisingly, the cleanest air in the UK can be found on top of a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. What is the air quality like where you live?

While these figures look at ambient air pollution, it is important to remember that air pollution doesn’t only affect you when you are outdoors.

While these figures look at ambient air pollution, it is important to remember that air pollution doesn’t only affect you when you are outdoors. If your home is poorly ventilated and you live in an area which is at risk of high levels of air pollution, then staying indoors may not be enough to protect you. Due to the high focus on optimising the energy efficiency of houses, our homes are becoming more airtight. Without adequate ventilation, all of the bad pollutants which are produced inside a home through for example the use of cleaning products, cooking with gas and drying washing as well as those that enter the house from the outdoors, get trapped in the house. You spend 90% of your time indoors, therefore the indoor air quality of your home is important.

Some say that opening a window is enough to ventilate your home and let the trapped pollution free, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case, especially if you live in a part of the country with high levels of ambient pollution. Ventilation is indeed an exchange of air and in theory, opening your windows allows this to happen within your home – but unless you live on top of that mountain in the Scottish Highlands you may be doing more harm than good. Exchanging the polluted air in your home with the polluted air from the outdoors isn’t going to improve your home’s indoor air quality, at least not in regards to PM particles and NO2, but a ventilation system which was built to do just that most likely will.

To read more about how to ventilate the home, see our Ventilation Factsheet.

To see our top tips on how to improve the indoor air quality of your home, press here.

UN: Air Pollution – Know your enemy

“We can’t stop breathing. But we can do something about the quality of our air, and global action is growing at all levels. To have any chance of truly changing the air, however, we need to know our enemy better and what we can do to defeat it.”

UN Environment recently published a new article discussing air pollution and how to tackle it. In the article they claim that nine out of ten people worldwide are statistically exposed to levels of air pollutants which exceed what the World Health Organization regards as safe. This means that with almost every breath we take, we are inhaling tiny particles which attack your organs and can lead to problems such as respiratory disease, heart disease, stroke and poor mental health.

While ambient (outdoor) air pollution is a major issue worldwide, My Health My Home was pleased to see mention of indoor air pollution and how this also is a contributor to the air pollution problem.

UN Environment lists the following sources as causes of both outdoor and indoor air pollution:

  • Burning of fossil fuels
  • Industrial processes, such as those of the chemical and mining industries
  • Agriculture
  • Waste treatment and management, particularly landfills
  • Dirty indoor cooking and heating systems
  • Natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and dust storms

All of these sources spread substances including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ground-level ozone, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons and lead. How much of this we end up breathing in, depends on a number of factors. These include weather and time of day. Rush hour may seem an obvious source of local air pollution, but air pollution travels, sometimes even across continents on international weather patterns. Air pollution is a global issue and everyone is at risk.

While you may not be entirely in control over what goes on outside of your home, something you can change is the quality of the air where you spend 90% of your time. Indoor air pollution comes as a result of a build-up of pollutants within the home. This can occur due to a number of reasons, the main being poor ventilation within your home. According to the World Health Organisation, poor indoor air quality is responsible for around 99,000 European deaths a year.

Some ways you can improve the indoor air of your home includes:

  • Assuring your home has an adequate ventilation system installed and running
  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products which releases fewer toxins into the air of your home
  • Dry your washing outside, or in a very well ventilated room – this will reduce the build-up of moisture

For a full list of our top tips on how to improve your indoor air quality press here.

Read the full UN Environment Article here.

Useful Resources: British Lung Foundation on Indoor Air Quality

Respiratory symptoms and disease can be an outcome of poor indoor air quality. British Lung Foundation have produced some useful resources explaining how to deal with it.

With over 30 years’ worth of research into different lung conditions, the British Lung Foundation is the nation’s biggest lung charity. Coughing, wheezing, asthma, COPD and Lung Cancer can all be caused by poor indoor air quality. Lung cancer caused by indoor air pollution is responsible for the loss of 30,600 healthy life years in the UK on its own. As a result, BLF have a dedicated section on their website called “your home and your lungs”  to indoor air quality, where one can find many useful resources and information about indoor air pollution and lung disease.

Who is at risk?

According to BLF, you’re at greater risk of being affected by indoor air pollution if you have already been diagnosed with a long-term lung condition such as asthma or COPD. If you have a lung condition, you may also be likely to spend more time indoors, which further increases your risk.

Children are also particularly sensitive to poor indoor air quality. Compared to adults, children’s lungs are proportionally larger in relation to their body weight, meaning they breathe in more. Furthermore, a child’s immune system is still developing and so they are less capable of fighting off any problems caused by indoor air pollution.

If you have been breathing polluted air for days or weeks at a time, you may start noticing some symptoms. These include a dry throat, cough, shortness of breath, an itchy or runny nose or the feeling of being wheezy.

BLF lists some of the most common causes of indoor air pollution to be a result of:

  • How buildings are ventilated
  • Damp and condensation
  • How we heat and cook in our homes
  • Chemicals in cleaning or decorating products

They also provide a guide on how to improve your homes indoor air quality including tips such as:

  • Making sure your home is ventilated
  • Using an extractor fan when cooking or showering to avoid condensation
  • Dry your washing outside
  • Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature

See the full guide here.
See My Health My Home’s top tips for a healthy home here.

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

Our Own Homes are Making us Sick: Energy Efficiency is Part of the Cure

We spend 90% of our time indoors so it is extremely important that our homes and buildings are seen as a critical public health issue. There is growing evidence to show that the efficiency and design of our buildings is an even bigger problem than initially thought.

Member states and European Parliament are currently discussing the EU’s climate and energy goals for 2030 and beyond, with the focus being directed towards the buildings we live and work in. This is becoming a key opportunity to enable us to not only significantly reduce our carbon footprint but also to improve the general health of all European citizens.

One in six Europeans live in homes that make them sick. This can be due to dampness, leaking roofs and inadequate thermal control

Poor indoor air quality is responsible for the loss of 2 million healthy life years in the European Union with Europeans living in unhealthy buildings being 1.5 times more likely to report poor health.

These air quality problems also occur in schools, where over 64 million students and 4.5 million teachers are affected by the air they breathe inside their schools. This can cause serious problems, such as the heightened risk or allergies and other conditions due to smaller airways being more vulnerable.

Additionally, in the workplace, indoor air quality, lighting, temperature, and noise are all proven to have a direct impact on the health and well-being of workers as well as their productivity rates. Poor indoor air quality provokes a 9% productivity loss. More concretely, carpeting and less ventilation, reduce typing speed and proofreading accuracy by 4%. To put it plainly: bad, inefficient office environments aren’t only bad for the climate, but also bad for the bottom line of the businesses.

Poor indoor air quality provokes a 9% productivity loss and can reduce the typing speed and proofreading accuracy of workers by 4%

The traditional model of thinking when it comes to measuring the efficiency of buildings has been to look at their energy consumption. Although this is a key metric when considering how efficient a building is, it has become apparent that there is more to look at, with reducing energy consumption to go hand in hand with the protection of the health of people who live and work in these buildings.

There is a current oversight when it comes to advocating the inhabitants of our buildings within the European Commission. The only approach to achieve better health outcomes from indoor environments is to put the health of our citizens and workforce front and center, and that’s a cause that all politicians and policymakers can get behind.

This article originally appeared on Euractiv 19/12/2017

Our own homes are making us sick: Energy efficiency is part of the cure

How to Limit Exposure to Indoor Air Pollution

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While outdoor air pollution is regularly discussed, indoor air pollution gets little attention, despite the fact that it can be up to five times worse than outside air pollution.

Professor Ian Colbeck, an indoor air quality expert from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex, who has carried out extensive research into indoor air quality and its impact on health, has provided some of his top tips on ways to improve air quality in the home.


  1. Need to smoke? Do it outside.
  2. Choose hard-surface floors
  3. Leave your shoes at the door
  4. Cook without leaving a trade
  5. Banish condensation
  6. Go all-natural
  7. Embrace the green stuff
  8. Purify the air
  9. Eliminate odors, don’t just mask them
  10. Ventilate

 

What are the health impacts of indoor air pollution? 

Poor indoor air quality can lead to a whole host of health issues, while indoor air pollution was attributed to 99,000 deaths across Europe in 2012. Professor Colbeck explains that the “potential health impacts of IAP can include asthma, respiratory irritation, heart disease, cancer, and sick building syndrome.” Sick building syndrome includes headaches, tiredness, and loss of concentration, and can particularly affect office workers.

How can air purifiers help reduce indoor air pollution? 

Investing in an air purifier can be an invaluable step when it comes to keeping your home free from air pollutants. Air purifiers work by drawing air into the machine, where filters trap dust and other minute particles including pollen, bacteria, ultrafine particulates, VOCs and even odors. The machine then releases the smooth, purified, clean air back into the home.


This article originally appeared on London Loves Business, 11/10/2017

http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/lifestyle/how-to-limit-exposure-to-indoor-air-pollution/18175.article