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Indoor Air Pollution

We spend a large part of our lives indoors at home. Keeping the air which we breathe at home clean is therefore of necessary importance, particularly for certain vulnerable members, including babies, children, pregnant women and the unborn babies, the elderly, and those suffering from respiratory or allergic diseases, such as asthma.

In most homes the level of indoor air pollution is very low, because there are controls on the design and construction of buildings. However, if ventilation of rooms is poor, or household appliances are faulty, pollution can build up to levels which may be detrimental to human health.

There are many possible sources of air pollutants in the home and indoor air quality can vary widely. DIY work may lead to a temporary increase in indoor pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), during painting or stripping in enclosed spaces, or laying loft insulation. Another significant source of indoor pollution is the burning of fuels in flueless appliances, such as paraffin stoves, portable gas heaters, gas stoves and ovens. If the appliance is faulty, incomplete combustion may result in the release of carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas. Carbon monoxide also builds up when people smoke cigarettes indoors. Dirty homes or houses in disrepair may be a source of dustmite and mould spores. In some parts of the UK, and in other parts of the world, the radioactive gas radon can seep into the house from the underlying geology, and accumulate indoors if ventilation is poor.

Housing and public health legislation exists to help prevent air quality problems arising indoors in the first place. In the majority of homes there is no need for concern over existing levels of pollutants.