Study: Your home may be making you sick
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New research in the journal Science of the Total Environment has highlighted the dangerous effects of indoor pollution on human health, and has called for policies to ensure closer monitoring of air quality.
European, Australian and UK researchers, led by the University of Surrey, assessed harmful effects of indoor pollution to make recommendations on how best to monitor and negate these outcomes.
Dr Prashant Kumar of the University of Surrey explained, "When we think of 'air pollution' we tend to think of car exhausts or factory fumes expelling grey smoke. However, there are various sources of pollution that have a negative effect on air quality, many of which are found inside our homes. From cooking residue to paints, varnishes and fungal spores the air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than that outside."
In 2012 indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths globally, compared with 3.7 million for outdoor air pollution. Urban dwellers typically spend 90% of their time indoors, linked to 'Sick Building Syndrome' where dwellers exhibit a range of ill health effects related to breathing indoor air. Whether the use of coal and wood for cooking, to microbial contaminants including bacteria and viruses these effects include respiratory disease and reduced cognitive function.
"It is essential that we are able to effectively monitor indoor air pollution so we can understand when and where levels are worst, and offer solutions to make our air healthier. Our work looks at the use of small, low-energy monitoring sensors that would be able to gather real-time data and tell families or workers when levels of pollutants are too high," continued Dr Kumar.
"Sometimes the solution will be as simple as opening a window, but without knowledge at the right time these simple steps are often skipped. We are calling for greater importance to be placed on ensuring buildings are built with indoor pollution monitoring in mind. As we enter the age of smart cities this is one way in which technology will actively benefit health."
In another paper published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Pollution, Dr Kumar also found outdoor air pollution was high where buildings were located at traffic intersections. Even where there was low traffic volume, traffic intersections with densely built up surroundings showed twice the concentration than at open junctions. Exposure to these concentrations showed that ground floor dwellings in these areas were exposed to twice as many harmful particles.
Read more about indoor air quality.