It’s national Allergy Awareness Week 2016 (25 April – 1 May) and ventilation designer, Nuaire is keen to highlight the danger to asthma sufferers from rising air pollution levels across the UK. With 40,000 early deaths each year being caused by dirty air and news that the UK won’t meet EU standards on air quality until 2020, the dangers are real. If you or a loved one suffers from asthma, the fight against air pollution starts at home. Here’s what you need to know.
- Traffic fumes are a major culprit. Diesel and petrol engines churn out a cocktail of noxious gases that include carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and – most harmful to humans – particulate matter, or PM.
- Air pollution from traffic emissions is bad news for asthma sufferers. Medical research has proven that particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone are the most hazardous types of air pollution and can worsen asthma symptoms and even cause fatalities. Nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide damage the lungs, causing inflammation and reduced lung function, while ozone is a major factor in asthma mortality.
- Air pollution and warm, sunny weather don’t mix. Sunshine reacts with nitrogen dioxide, PM and VOCs to produce ozone, which can reach dangerously high levels near busy roads. If air pollution levels are high on warm days, the pollutants can combine to form smog. This also traps pollen and the irritants can stay in the air for as long as the calm weather is around.
- Long-term exposure to air pollution can actually cause asthma. Children and young adults are most at risk from its harmful effects. As air pollution levels increase, so does the harmful effect on lung function. Children who live near busy roads are four times more likely to have reduced lung function when they grow up.
- Polluted outdoor air is polluted indoor air. If air pollution levels are high in the area around your home, then unfortunately the air you breathe inside your home will also contain the same pollutants. To make matters worse, everyday activities like burning coal or wood on a stove or fireplace, cooking on a gas hob, using decorating and cleaning products, and using air fresheners and burning scented candles, all contribute to poor indoor air quality. The chemicals released react with one another and with the chemicals from incoming traffic fumes, making the air we breathe at home up to 50% more toxic than the air outside.
- Your home could be making your asthma and allergies worse. The My Health My Home campaign is lifting the lid on contaminated indoor air and how it’s affecting our health. To take the healthy home test and find out if you need to take action visit www.myhealthmyhome.co.uk
- Opening a window won’t help, but neither will sealing up your property. When air pollution levels are high, the general advice for asthma sufferers is to stay at home and keep windows and door shut. However, this could do more harm than good if the property is poorly-ventilated or has been made more energy-efficient with wall and loft insulation. Houses need to breathe, but the air we bring in must be free from pollution and allergens. Two of the most common asthma triggers in the home are house dust mites and mould spores. Both thrive in damp, humid conditions and are a result of poor ventilation.
- Ventilation is the key to improving air quality at home. But extract fans which operate intermittently won’t do the job. Installed in the wrong place they simply blow allergens around the room making asthma symptoms worse. What’s needed is whole-home ventilation that will treat the air throughout the property, improving the indoor air quality and ensuring that the air being brought in is free from pollution and allergens.
- MVHR is a must for new-build homes. Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery or MVHR is the most energy-efficient method of ventilating new homes being built. This is a ducted system that removes stale air from each room and replaces it with fresh, filtered air from outside. Popular for two decades, MVHR systems contain high grade filters that clean pollutants, dust and pollen from the incoming air before it enters the home. For homes being built near busy roads, carbon filters can be fitted to pre-filter the incoming air so that even the finest particles of pollution are removed.
- PIV can reduce asthma triggers in your existing home. Positive Input Ventilation or PIV has delivered proven benefits for asthma-sufferers. PIV works by pushing air into the building at a constant rate, forcing air circulation around the interior. A properly installed unit will ensure that stale, contaminated and moisture-laden air in the property is continuously diluted, displaced and replaced with good quality, fresh and filtered air. The result is an environment in which condensation dampness can’t exist, and where the allergens and pollutants that act as triggers for asthma sufferers are kept to a minimum. This solution is easy and quick to fit, so minimal disruption is required to get good indoor air quality.
While we wait for the politicians to take control of the rising air pollution levels in the UK, there’s already lots we can do to protect ourselves at home. Proper ventilation is the most effective way of removing pollutants and allergens from our indoor air, but the added filtration offered by both MVHR and PIV systems is the secret weapon for asthmatics against air pollution.