Work, Home and Outdoors
Multiple inspiring innovations are being integrated globally across the built environment to address the ongoing issue of air quality. Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
Living among busy roads and industrialised areas is creating vulnerability in the public’s health and stretching the healthcare system. In Greater Manchester outdoor air pollution is costing the regional economy close to £1bn a year, plus reducing life expectancy by six months due to the high levels of pollution in the congested city area.
As a result of modern-day activities and lifestyle habits, we are being exposed to higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in our workplace, in the home and equally in the outdoor environment.
In the last few years, an emerging body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within the built environment can be more polluted than rural air. This is especially true in larger and more industrialised cities.
Although moving indoors shields against the pollutants from vehicle exhausts, it doesn’t decrease exposure to VOCs. This is due to buildings being built with VOC-emitting products, cleaned with VOC-based solvents, and home to humans who are liberally using VOC-releasing beauty products.
Insufficient ventilation and sealed living spaces can intensify indoor pollutant levels by not admitting enough ‘fresh’ outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources.
Research specifies that people spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Consequently, for many individuals the risks to health may be greater due to air pollution exposure from indoors rather than outside.
Sick Building Syndrome
Poor air quality and ventilation are key contributing factors to Sick building syndrome (SBS), an illness diagnosed by a collection of acute symptoms whilst in a particular environment.
Possible SBS symptoms according to the NHS include:
- blocked or runny nose
- dry itchy skin
- dry and sore eyes
- tiredness and difficulty concentrating
Symptoms of SBS worsen the longer you’re in a particular building and improve after you leave.
In addition to measures now being taken by building developers to use more materials with lower and safer VOC levels, good ventilation is the key to overcoming many of these acute and/or chronic effects.