BESA encourages households to improve indoor air quality this Christmas

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The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has launched a campaign to encourage people to improve indoor air quality in their homes over Christmas

As the UK continues to prepare for Christmas whilst battling the threat of Omicron, there are concerns regarding the number of people mixing indoors over the festive period.

A poll of 2,000 people, conducted by Opinium, found that 43% of plan on celebrating with two households, 29% plan to celebrate just with their own household and 20% plan on spending the day with three different households.

The research also reveals that 39% of people are planning to celebrate Christmas Day with 4-6 people, 24% are planning to spend it with 2-3 people and 19% plan on going bigger with 7-9 people.

One of the government guidelines for mixing indoors is to ensure a window is open to help ventilate and improve indoor air quality.

However, there are several factors that can affect indoor air quality and BESA is aiming to raise awareness with its new campaign.

According to BESA, some of the worst offenders of poor indoor air quality include:

  • Cooking Christmas dinner – A study in the U.S. showed that ultrafine particles in the air over a 12-hour period after cooking were 77,000, which is 38 times higher than a normal period with no activities. For Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, the rating was over 30 times worse than in a normal situation. (1)
  • Wood burning stove – When using a wood burning stove, studies have shown daily average PM2.5 levels increasing by nearly 200% and PM1 by 227% versus non-use periods. (2)
  • Scented candles – A study of 22 homes in Sweden revealed that in six homes, candles contributed to 60% of the daily exposure to high particle levels for householders. (3)
  • Fragranced consumer products – A study analysing 25 common fragranced products such as laundry, cleaning supplies, air freshener and personal care products found that 133 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were released, with an average of 17 per product. (4)
  • Potpourri – A study found that potpourri can release considerable amounts of solvents, even up to 36 days after first released. (5)

The research from BESA also showed that 76% of people plan to cook a Christmas dinner, 56% plan on lighting candles, 45% said that they will use a fragranced product and 14% have bought potpourri.

Commenting on the importance of indoor air quality Graeme Fox, Head of Technical at BESA, said: “If there is one positive outcome from the pandemic, it is the increased awareness on the importance of indoor air quality.

“But Covid-19 is only the tip of the iceberg, with poor indoor air quality a far bigger problem, one that we are learning more about every day

Cancer and Alzheimer’s

“The impact of indoor air quality on your health and wellbeing can range from hair loss to asthma or even cancer and Alzheimer’s. Just because we cannot see poor indoor air quality in the majority of cases, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

“A 15-minute exposure to some fine particles can mean that they will travel to every part of your body and remain there for up to three months.

“In the short term there are small behavioural changes that people can make such as opening a window while mixing indoors with people, cooking with an extractor fan or using cleaning products and candles that are less toxic, as well as thoroughly ventilating a room after people have left.

Improve ventilation

“However, in the long term, we encourage people to start thinking about the bigger picture of indoor air quality within their homes and look at how they can improve ventilation.

“This can mean ensuring that you are regularly changing the filters on your kitchen extractor fan, getting your bathroom fan inspected, or looking at installing other air filters or mechanical ventilation throughout your home.

“Across the nation we are all looking forward to spending Christmas with our loved ones. But spending long periods of time indoors with people outside of your household can risk spreading Covid more rapidly.

“While sharing indoor space, we absolutely recommend following Government guidance and to keep a window open to help ventilate the air.

“We would also go further and encourage people to fully ventilate their homes once people have left by opening multiple windows and doors to completely circulate the air.”

 

References

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