Misguided efforts to ventilate may put indoor air quality at risk

Throughout the pandemic, daily health warnings called for greater ventilation of all buildings, from homes to hospitals. However, new research by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) found that the general call for ventilation ignores the impact of environmental pollution sources surrounding the building, from local industrial activities to busy roads. While outdoors, these pollutants have a huge impact on indoor air quality and that impact is magnified further through inappropriate ventilation. 

According to a survey, the findings of which were recently reported on Air Quality News, almost 80 percent of people believe that fresh air from outside is the key to improving indoor air quality. You can read the article in full here: https://airqualitynews.com/2022/05/10/indoor-air-quality-put-at-risk-by-fresh-air-from-outside-research-finds/

There remains an assumption, held by the majority of people in the UK (so it is likely this figure is similar in Ireland), that ‘fresh air’ is simply air from outside. Not only is this not true, the so-called ‘fresh air’ might actually worsen indoor air quality in homes and workplaces. Lack of awareness of environmental pollutants and repeated calls to ventilate all buildings by simply opening windows might actually be damaging indoor air quality and, by extension, the health of the occupants within.

The above survey found that even people living within close proximity to “highly polluting infrastructure” failed – in the majority  – to link the probable impact of these pollutants on the quality of air circulating around their homes through open windows. 

While most people recognised indoor threats to air quality, including mold, wood burning, fresh paint and cleaning products, they failed to recognise a nearby motorway, train station or even an industrial plant as a threat inside their home or workplace.

Speaking about the research findings, the CEO of BESA, David Frise, explained that:

“In many circumstances homeowners are quite rightly looking to improve the indoor air quality of their homes by opening a window and bringing in new ‘fresh’ air… Our research indicates that many people feel that the quality of air near their home is fairly clean. But these facts ignore the reality that for millions of people, they will live within a couple of miles of an A-road or a motorway, a train station or even an industrial plant. All of these create millions of tonnes of highly damaging air particles which enter our bodies and can remain for up to three months. These pollutants can also develop or irritate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or lung cancer.”

This report highlights the importance of raising awareness of air quality locally and of giving people the information needed to make the right decisions for their health and that of their family or teams. Residents and visitors to Ireland can find real-time information about local air quality through the Sonitus Systems-developed EPA site https://airquality.ie .

Sonitus Systems offers both the hardware and software for a range of environmental parameters on a continual basis, with real-time information available through our Sonitus Cloud dashboard. For more details on our indoor and outdoor noise and air quality monitoring products and services, please contact the team at https://www.sonitussystems.com/contact-us