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Kirsty Hammond looks at the importance of effective ventilation

You may find it surprising, but poor indoor air quality now tops the charts as one of the world’s most pressing health issues.

Ongoing studies have highlighted the link between indoor air quality and some serious illnesses, which include asthma and cancer.

In the same week as Clean Air Day, it is worth reminding ourselves that as a nation, we spend a huge 90% of our daily living indoors, clearly the air quality is intrinsic to a healthy life.

According to the World Health Organisation ‘household air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths per year in 2020, including over 237 000 deaths of children under the age of 5.

The combined effects of ambient air pollution and household air pollution are associated with 6.7 million premature deaths annually’.

Peace lilies, ferns, and spider plants are the best at removing formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.

Kirsty Hammond Kirsty Hammond Editor and publisher of Specifier Review

Quality is important

Ventilating our buildings is important, it removes stale, moist air and replaces it with clean fresh air from outside.

There are many environmental technologies that improve the quality of indoor air, in addition to these we can explore a few lesser-known ones.

Air contaminants are odourless which makes them impossible to detect, impurities such as VOC’s or volatile organic compounds and harmful microbes such as mould cannot be seen when airborne. Often the first sign of poor air quality is in the form of health effects.

The most effective way to avoid indoor pollutants is by using products in your home that reduce or eliminate harmful particles. This can be in the form of ventilation but can also apply to flooring, cleaning products, paint, and even furniture.

More and more manufacturers are reformulating their products with this in mind.

What if we all used products that not only avoided introducing toxins into our homes but also worked to actively remove them?

The power of greenery

The Environmental Audit Committee estimates that NHS and social care costs relating to air pollution add up to more than £20 billion a year, so certainly worth addressing as a nation.

It has been widely documented that houseplants have air-purifying qualities.

Obviously plants alone can't solve an air quality issue, researchers found that it would take between 10 and 1,000 plants per square metre of floor space to compete with the air cleaning power of a mechanical unit.

Technology such as MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) though can make a difference by introducing filtered fresh air from the outdoors, while capturing up to 90% of the energy that has been used to make the indoor air the ideal temperature.

However, should you wish to make a start, peace lilies, ferns, and spider plants are the best at removing formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.

Incorporating plants into a building design, such as through a green wall or indoor planting area is of interest to many builders and designers. Not only will this remove and filter carbon dioxide but the benefits of biophilia are far reaching. Humans need contact with nature for wellbeing.

The main offenders in our homes are everyday household products, paint, perfumes, scented candles and even cosmetics. Carpets can trap indoor VOC’s and mould spores, pets and even cookers can be impacting your health.

Innovative approaches

Innovative company, CreativeDNAaustria has designed a helmet to cater for individual clean air needs. It provides a clean air bubble that sits directly in front of your face.

Whilst Beijing-based O2ganic have produced a conceptual portable terrarium, with customised air filtering plants, sort of a personal garden that takes your filters with you!

Obviously we are now taking our indoor air quality as seriously as our outdoors. Surely the legislature that defines acceptable levels will soon be dictating for our homes, schools, and workplaces.

When this happens it will be interesting to see which of the above innovations become crucial, usable and affordable to ensure our safe breathing.

Kirsty Hammond is editor and publisher of Specifier Review