An overwhelming body of recent research has stated in no uncertain terms the negative impact that poor indoor air quality is having on the nation’s health. Respiratory illness is on the rise and over a third of home are at risk of pollution. Jenny Smith, Marketing Manager at British fan manufacturer Vent-Axia, talks us through the latest research and what can be done to alleviate the problem.

The Royal College of Physicians have just published the report “Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution” which starkly sets out the dangerous impact air pollution is currently having on our health. It states that around 40,000 people are dying in the UK every year due to air pollution, costing more than £20 billion a year. Exposure to indoor air pollutants such as radon and second-hand smoke further add to these figures. The report looks at how factors such as kitchen products, faulty boilers, open fires, fly sprays and air fresheners all impact on indoor air quality. And with health problems such as cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia all linked to poor air quality, it is clear that this needs to be urgently addressed in every household.

This new report has brought indoor air quality (IAQ) to the fore once again and backs up the findings of other recent research. The new BEAMA survey “My Health My Home” has revealed that over one third of UK homes are at an elevated or severe risk of having polluted indoor air and follows on from IAQ research by a leading academic at The University of Reading. Professor Hazim Awbi’s report, “The Future of Indoor Air Quality in UK Homes and its Impact on Health”, states the health risks associated with poorly ventilated homes in no uncertain terms.

One of the revelations in this report is that, as new and refurbished homes become ever more air tight to meet the Government’s carbon emission targets for 2050, the number of people suffering with asthma could increase by 80% from current levels. It also states that current building regulations could increase indoor pollutant levels equivalent to the upper end of (and in some cases well above) World Health Organisation recommended limits.

The report suggests that there should be a legal requirement for new homes, and guidance for retrofitted homes, to have an air exchange rate of at least 0.5/hour, to help protect human health. It states that the most cost-effective solution for achieving this exchange rate, whilst still satisfying energy efficiency requirements, is the standardised fitting of effective continuous mechanical ventilation, preferably with heat recovery (MVHR).

Designed to work with the natural air infiltration, continuous ventilation systems control the air path through the home. As a result, they prevent the migration of damaging humidity and pollutants, providing near silent energy efficient ventilation. For new build homes there are continuous whole house Mechanical Extract Ventilation (MEV) and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) solutions which combine supply and extract ventilation in one unit. For refurbishments, there are continuous Decentralised Mechanical Extract Ventilation (dMEV) systems which extract stale air from the home, improving the air quality and preventing the migration of damaging humidity and pollutants. These energy efficient systems are also available with heat recovery. In addition, there are also dMEV single room heat recovery units available. Ideal for existing dwellings, they are low energy and low cost.